The Evangelist News Edition, Monday September 4, 2023 .By Aka imo Kufre
It was a sincere honor for ICC General Manager, Development, Mr. William Glenwright to address the representative of Akwa Ibom state government when his team visited Uyo last Friday to assess details of cricket development beyond Lagos and Abuja in Nigeria.
Glenwright who arrived in Uyo after the Abuja and Lagos Cricket World Cup trophy tour via Victor Attah International Airport was in the company of Nigeria Cricket Federation, (NCF) President, Mr. Uyi Akpata.
Glenwright later disclosed at the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports office that Cricket is among the preferred team sports for the 2028 Olympics, having a huge following and economic growth potential.
“We are in the process of applying for inclusion in the Olympic programs in 2028. We have been shortlisted as a preferred sport and we will find out in the next month or so, whether we have been successful.
“Of course, we have been added recently to the All African Games in Ghana next year. So, we are very excited about cricket’s future on multi-sports event inclusion in the Olympics, inclusion in the African Games, and that completely changes our sports and introduces us to new countries and new markets around the world and ensures our future success.”
The team’s underlying reason for visiting the state also included the unfolding of opportunities through partnership that abound for the investment of the existing youth potential in cricket games.
“The visit to Akwa Ibom and Nigeria must be incredibly important for us. Part of my role today is to explain the source of cricket and the opportunity it presents to Nigeria as an associate member of ICC. Cricket is one of the world’s largest sports and in fact, the second largest sport played by 300 million people around the world with over 1.5 billion fans.
“And I will mention that because Nigeria is our fastest growing member in the world, with the fastest growing participation and facilities. Here is the latest that can bring World Cup qualification to Nigeria as the president mentioned as won two associate members development in the world.”
It was an excitement for ICC to understand that the state produced top players like Salome Sunday for Nigeria out of nothing. To encourage the state players, Mr. Akpata and partners, PET Foundation donated the Cricket Practice Net for the state to attain greater height.
” I am aware that this state has four national team players with the captain, is is an extraordinary achievement. When I walk in here, I notice it is your strategic mission to produce national team players and international players. Certainly, you are achieving that and that is a testament to you and to the state association for the work going on here to grow the game.
I am very grateful for government support in terms of getting access to facilities, and school programs and we look forward to continuous support. We feel that Nigeria has enormous potential to be one of the game’s largest members and the states like Akwa Ibom have ground importance in the game. We thank you for your support and look forward to continue building this relationship with you.”
The gradual growth of the cricket playing facility base of Nigeria also delighted Mr. Glenwright as he observed another net construction was added during the Friday commissioning at Community Secondary Commercial School, Ibiaku Itam within Uyo’s capital city.
Responding, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Youth Development and Sports, Hon. Monday Ebong represented by Mr. Ifiok Duff expressed appreciation to NCF leadership for their support to the State cricket team. He also showed excitement over the recognition of Akwa Ibom state’s contribution through the five female players from the state.
“On behalf of the State government, the governor, the commissioner, and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, I welcome you all to Akwa Ibom state. This visit has been overdue because we expected you for a very long time and it all happened very suddenly.
“We are very happy, the commissioner and the governor are happy to have you. Unfortunately, they cannot be here because of the impromptu nature of your visit, they would have loved to be with you so you are welcome in Jesus’ name.
“I want to say that I am very delighted to be here, amid other sports each time I sit at this table, it is always football officials that we receive either here or at the stadium. Football will have people from the international and nations. I will ask myself what about the other sports, we have over 40 sports in Akwa Ibom state. Where are they and what are they doing? So, this morning having you in the ministry is something that I am so delighted about. I can see that the sport is working, it is improving and progressing from one stage to the other. ”
The commissioner’s mouthpiece said he has been listening to the programs of cricket even when they are having competitions in the state and beyond and assured of genuine government partnership for growth.
“I know cricket can bring children out of poverty so, we are doing everything as a state to make sure mold them and assist them to go to greater heights. I want to assure you of the state partnership since we are looking for opportunities like this. I want to say that we will give you the enabling environment to operate in the way that you want we will want to host an international competition.”
The team departed the ministry office to the net construction project at Ibiaku Itam where more than 300 youths welcomed the team in overwhelming excitement.
Present at the event were the Chairman of Akwa Ibom State Cricket Association, Prof. Emem Bassey, Mr. Emeka Igwilo, NCF General Manager, and Mrs. Patricia Kambarami, ICC Regional Manager, Africa.
Others included Mr. Edward Khoza, Head of Cricket Pathway, CSA, and Mr. Rohit Poddar, ICC Senior Manager, Members Service.