Federal Government’s recognition of 60 Nigerian sports figures as sports icons is a laudable step that will spur many other Nigerians to strive for more glory for fatherland.
Two ex-internationals, a serving athlete and the daughter of a late sports broadcaster told the News Agency of Nigeria they were sure such recognition would help a lot.
NAN reports that the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, through an event tagged “Unveiling of Nigeria 60 Sports Icons”, had celebrated 60 sports figures on Friday in Abuja.
The event was held at the Velodrome of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, and was part of activities to celebrate Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary.
“It was a right step in the right direction. It will encourage athletes more, as it shows that following their feat in the field of sports, government’s recognition will still come,” Chioma Ajunwa, Nigeria’s first Olympic gold medallist said.
She added that the recognition was a form of motivation for others.
“It means a lot to me. After so many years of my participation at the Olympics, I am still relevant and being recognised. I thank God for this.
“I also believe that this will inspire the upcoming generations. We have so many talents in the country and, when harnessed, we will have so many Olympians,’’ Ajunwa said.
Olumide Oyedeji, a former national basketball player who featured in the U.S National Basketball Association (NBA), commended the efforts of Nigerians who found him worthy of the honour.
“I must commend the efforts of all Nigerians as well as the journalists who voted and made this happen. It is a great privilege for us to be recognised and we appreciate this.
” This recognition will also motivate the younger generation to know that hard work pays,” Oyedeji said.
On her part, Paralympic gold medallist Lucy Ejike said: “Choosing me as one of the 60 icons has made me so happy. This shows that there is hope for the future, hope for the upcoming athletes.
” The young ones will see this as a form of motivation and put in their best in whatever they do,” she added.
Chito Okonkwo-Okeke, daughter of late football commentator Ernest Okonkwo, was also at the event.
While representing him, she said it was noteworthy that the passion her dad had for the job has gained him a place among the icons, 30 years after his death.
“My dad was a very disciplined person and someone who was passionate about his job and the game of football.
“He always encouraged us to do our best in our various fields and we are proud that he has been honoured at this level.
” We thank the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and Nigeria as a whole,” Okonkwo-Okeke said.
NAN reports that other sports figures who were recognised include business mogul Aliko Dangote, Olympic bronze medallist Chika Chukwumerije as well as late Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi.
The list of those honored also had Blessing Okagbare, Lauritta Onye, scrabble champion Wellington Jighere and UFC champion Israel Adesanya.
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)