Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Monday formally inaugurated the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, urging Delta’s Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to effectively utilise the facility.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Obasanjo who was in the state on a two-day visit also inaugurated other road projects in Agbor in the state.
The former President, while noting that the stadium might not mean much to the ordinary man, said the gains of the project could however not be over-emphasised.
Obasanjo said: “No one can have a sound mind and sound body without exercising. The stadium is a veritable source of money for the state and the people of Asaba and environs.”
Obasanjo added that the essence of the structure would be defeated if the state government failed to through it train the young people by catching them young.
He said: “The thinking of the people is `what are you doing with the stadium?’ and, to the ordinary man, the importance is not appreciated.
“But the importance is in having a sound mind in a sound body. I have always played squash rackets and I have a squash court in my house to keep fit and it is very important that you exercise.
“In today’s world there is virtually nothing from which you cannot make money. Sports tourism will make the economy of the state strong and the people of Asaba will grow their economy.
“We must not just have the stadium, we must utilise the facility to bring up the young ones by catching them young.
“You must recruit those that would be trained and build a hostel where they stay to be trained and if you do this the state will develop.
“Sixteen years ago, I came here to lay the foundation of this stadium and today I am here to inaugurate it. I hope to come back to see the hostel you have built to train the youths.”
Earlier, Okowa had said the stadium was at a 20 per cent completion stage when he came into office as governor.
He added that he had then decided to take up the task of completing the project.
Okowa said: “Now, the stadium has hosted an international athletics competition which had in attendance athletes from about 52 African countries in August, and it has also hosted the 2018 Aiteo Cup final match between Rangers International FC of Enugu and Kano Pillars FC.
“During these events, the state’s economy blossomed as hotels in the state capital were fully booked and other economic activities thrived. But some persons have asked that ‘of what importance is the stadium?’
“We are ready to host a friendly match between the Super Eagles and the Cranes of Uganda on Tuesday.
“But beyond this, the fact is that we are trying to grow our economy, and when we hosted the athletics championships and the Aiteo Cup final, economic activities in Asaba increased.
“Now, we have gotten the Asaba Airport runway right and just few days ago a flight took off from the airport to South Africa and returned and we plan to concession the airport for effective management as cargo airport by December.”