One of the biggest challenges of sports development in Nigeria is that of lack of adequate infrastructure and ultra-modern facilities. Sports at the grassroots especially remains in a very sorry state in the country. However, a few individuals and organisations such as Charlie-Marie Group of Schools under the visionary leadership of the Proprietress Evangelist Adekunbi Akin-Taylor are changing that narrative with their deliberate interventions aimed at the provision of state of the arts sporting facilities.
This was the case on December 2nd 2023 at Eriyo-Ogijo Community, a suburb under the Sagamu Local Government Area of Ogun State at the official inauguration of Charlie-Marie Sports Arena and Academy. The sporting facility which is intended to be a six hundred capacity mini sports ground is estimated to cost about 60million naira upon completion with over 50 percent of the estimated cost already expended. The arena has different sports facilities including a football field, a six lane tracks which will cater for athletics, tennis court, basketball, table tennis among other sports.
The inauguration of the Arena and Academy witnessed a sports carnival of some sorts as children from Charlie Marie Group of Schools and other schools from neighbouring communities gathered in their numbers to compete in different sporting events especially in athletics, cultural display, choreography while parents were equally not left out as they took part in Penalty Kicks, Ball in the Hole, Bottle Flip, Noodles Feeding, Track Grocery Shopping and novelty table tennis games.
According to the President and Proprietress of the Academy, Evangelist Adekunbi Akin Taylor the facility is completely a community-based, a Non-Governmental and Not-For-Profit sporting outfit as the project is targeted at helping to discover, unbundle and nurture grassroots sporting prospects among the community and other adjoining hinterlands as well as pupils and students. “We are committed to sporting development mainly at the grassroots, we know that talents abound in Nigeria and our vision is to raise superstars from zero to heroes, our convictions is to provide an enabling sporting environment where the children of the less privileged will have access to good facilities, trainings, mentorship, sports scholarships and exposure that will propel them to stardom” the sports enthusiast noted.
Although the project is yet to be fully completed, it has however reached advanced stages and already opened for community use. Austin Orogun the Academy Director says part of the plans is to work in partnership with both local and international bodies such as the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), National Institute of Sports (NIS) to get qualified coaches that will help nurture talents at the Academy. “We are very much aware that sports development and education are interconnected and our philosophy is to put into practice “The Catch Them Young” objective. The grassroots is a very important part of the society and national development and we believe if we get it right then there will be much less to worry about for the future of our youths and that is one of the reasons this project is very dear to our hearts’’ Austin asserted.
The Traditional Ruler of the Area Oba Kazeem the Okuselu 1 of Ogijo Kingdom. In his remarks at the event expressed delight at the project and commended the vision of the Proprietor Evangelist Adekunbi Akin-Taylor for locating the sports facility in the area. He promised to get the attention of the government to further help in attracting development to the community and admonished the facility be opened to other schools in the area for use.
Two of the Academy athletes, Iremiposi Yusif and David Simon expressed their satisfaction on the benefit of the Academy and sports arena in their community. “Am very much thrilled about this because it will help to improve my performance and that of other athletes. I have participated in some national competitions before and now this sports academy will enable me do better in the future” Basirat echoed with much excitement. Similarly, David commended the efforts of the founder of the academy for her courageous steps to situate the Mini sports stadium in the area to encourage athletes like him. “We are thankful to our proprietress for her vision, now we can do better when we go for competitions because we can train better” the budding young athlete expressed in delight. With such impressive sports academy and facility, the future surely promises a lot for the athletes and one can only say Up School, Up Charlie Marie.