Good results from our sportsmen and women
By Steve Alabi
Recent results in competitions involving Ondo State teams give assurances that February will be a worthy celebration for the Sunshine State. February is a month of double celebration for the Sunshine State; the state will mark the 44th anniversary of its existence and the third anniversary of the administration of Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN. Both are joyous occasions worth celebrating in their own right but the celebrations will be made full by the good results our sportsmen and women have been returning in recent times.
It is appropriate that our sportsmen and women are adding spice to the celebrations. When the drums are rolled out next month for the double events, there will be that extra spring in our feet on account of the good delivery the state is getting in the sports arena. Not only Sunshine Stars are doing well, our representatives in other sports are also raising the state’s flag high. It is a good development that deserves to be applauded.
Even though our Sunshine Stars could not crush Kano Pillars as we wished on Sunday, the 2-2 draw against such top opposition is a far better performance than the poor menu the club used to serve us in seasons past. To be in the top six constantly in the highly competitive Nigerian league this season shows that the players and their minders have got their act together. They are now repaying Aketi for his deep commitment to the club.
The sun also shone brightly last week in Lagos where Ondo State’s contingent returned credible results in the qualifying competitions for the 20th edition of the National Sports Festival holding in neighbouring Edo State later this year. Our sportsmen and women made us proud in the competitions involving all the South West states, qualifying at least one team in seven of the nine sports on offer. Only the hosts, Lagos State had a better performance. That better performance came about because they fielded teams for all the nine sports while Ondo State took six teams to the elimination series.
With only six teams, our contingent qualified in Handball (Male) alongside Lagos, Hockey (Female) also with Lagos, Football (Female) again with Lagos, Abula (Male and Mixed), Volleyball (Male), Beach Volleyball (Male) and Basketball (Male and Female). In clear terms, all the six teams presented by the state qualified for Edo 2020. No one, not even Oliver Twist, can ask for more. It is a one hundred percent score. We can only ask for more at the Festival proper.
Ondo State did not perform this feat because there were feeble oppositions out there, no. In fact, every state in the South West is a tough customer. The results show clearly that the job of qualifying was very tough. In Football (Female) for example, only goals difference separated the competing teams in our group as all the games ended in draws. Each team ended up with three points but our girls topped the group by virtue of having the best goals difference. That is how fierce the competition was.
In Basketball, our male and female teams did not find competition less fierce. In the male event, we defeated Osun State 71-54 and nudged Oyo State by the narrowest of margins, 55-54. In the female event, our girls prevailed 44-30 over Ogun State and lost 43-52 to Lagos State but still qualified. In Volleyball (Male), our boys maintained the enviable record of excellent performance from the earliest times, beating the hosts three straight sets, 25 -22, 27-25 and 25-23. The boys repeated the same feat over Oyo State. Only Ogun State managed to win a set in losing 1-3 to the Aketi inspired team.
The state was equally ruthless in Beach Volleyball (Male), Hockey (Female) and Handball (Male). In Hockey (Female), our girls demolished Ogun State 2-0 and Oyo State 6-0. In Handball (Male), our boys beat Oyo State 23-13, Osun State 22-14 and Ogun State 33-20. The state also recorded good results in Abula (Male and Mixed). In total, the Sunshine State secured the first position in four events and came second in the rest. This is a wonderful performance by any standard.
Leadership is key in every endeavour. Our dear governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, himself a goal getter, deserves the first accolade for his deep commitment to the growth of sports since he assumed office. He is a man of his convictions who is transforming every sector of the state in a radical manner. It is no surprise that the state’s athletes are delivering. They trust in their leader, and when athletes trust in the leader, the results show on the field.
Kudos also go to the Commissioner of Youths and Sports, Barr. Dotun Owanikin, the General Manager of the Ondo State Sports Council, Chief Wande Fabuluje, the coaches and the athletes themselves as well as the players, coaches and management of our Sunshine Stars. But these deliveries are first steps to greater achievements. There is nothing stopping our ambassadors from reaching the top and taking the ultimate honours. With a committed helmsman like Aketi in the saddle, every dream is realizable. Sunshine Stars can win the league, our athletes can win as many gold as possible in Benin. Everything is possible.