By Babatunde Ojo
The CEO of Moni Michelle Sports, Ebi Egbe has urged Nigerian government to concentrate on the business part of sports to enhance development.
Egbe, a sportspreneur and investor who has 36 years experience in the sports sector stated this in an interview session with journalists on Nigeria Sport Centre’s WhatsApp platform “Hot Seat”.
Responding to a question on sports development, Egbe said that ” Government owns major clubs and sport centres in Nigeria. Having said this, they have to understand it’s a big business. They need to start concentrating on the business part of sports and start bringing technocrats to man their commissions”.
The Bayelsa-born sport technocrat further stated that “Government should also understand that sports is a sector every citizen wishes to venture into”.
Speaking further, he stated that “It’s high time the government stopped appointing novices and politicians to head offices in the sector”.
Responding to the question of how his sports facilities company can become global brands, Egbe said “It’s not easy to become a global brand but if you are consistent, it’s easy to become a brand and become a force to be reckoned with.
” We started from nothing but today we’ve built our brand to the extent that we get calls from other African countries, they seek our opinion on the best playing surface for their national stadiums. Sports business is very big, football business is very big. You just need to pick what you are good at to become a global brand. Either coaching or merchandizing, just be consistent and give it your best shot”.
On the issue of Nigerian foreign-based players complaining about astro turf pitches but those in the domestic league seem to have no choice because many stadia in the country have artificial pitches, he said “You can’t blame the foreign players. Synthetic pitches are bad but not all of them. The 100% rubber pitches are black granus, it’s very bad for players. Number one, the ball movement on the black granus are not natural like the one we have at the goal project in Abuja and other stadia. The pitches can also cause injuries and then on a sunny day, the rubber pitches produce casinogents which is a cancer-causing agent. So the foreign based players have realized that they cannot play proper football on rubber surfaces, they’ve known the side effects”.
” Even if you are going to pay me $1billion for a rubber pitch, I’m going to walk away. Like the Lafia Township Stadium, I walked away because they couldn’t pay me but today they have a rubber field. Rubber fields are not for 21st century football. The adverse effects of rubber field is very enirmy, I don’t like it. My company, Moni Michelle Sports is very concerned about athletes’ safety”.
Responding to the question of changing the narrative due to the neglect of other sport because sport ministers and the ministry over the years have prioritized football, Egbe said “I think we’ve started changing the narrative right now because Mr Sunday Dare is not concentrating on football, he’s bent on taking sports back to schools to develop grassroot sports in Nigeria. I think the narratives have started changing with a minister like Mr Sunday Dare who has plans on what to do and does not want to fail”.
On the issue of sport development in Nigeria, he said ” As an administrator with many years of experience, we have to go back to school sports and construct facilities. Let’s take sports back to schools. It will solve our problem in Nigeria. In every local government, let’s have like 3-4 sport facilities with good football pitches, good basketball courts and others,we are going to produce many Olympic champions”, he concluded.