THE President of the Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF), Emeka Onyema, has described the Abuja cricket oval currently under construction as the first of its kind in West Africa.
This is even as the cricket boss informed that the construction of the oval, which is sited at the Package B of the National Stadium in Abuja, would cost NCF over N3 billion and called on investors to partner with the federation to put a world-class cricket oval in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Speaking with sports journalists in Abuja, Onyema informed that the oval would be constructed in phases with a completion target of three years, adding that the construction of the international standard oval was purely a private initiative.
“In Nigeria, we don’t have the facilities. We need to build the facilities, so that we would have an international standard oval, one of which is what is going on at the Abuja National stadium. That will be the first in West Africa and this is the first time the Federation is taking up such an initiative,” the NCF president stated.
“Constructing the oval is a lot of money, but we cannot be specific over it because it would in phases. The first phase is to get a place called the cricket playing ground where we can play cricket. The second phase is to develop the major facilities around the ground like the spectators’ stand, among others.
“The oval will be 20,000-seating capacity with other facilities like the media centre, a 120-room hostel, the meeting rooms, sponsors room, shopping centres, among others. We intends to spend about N3 billion to get the facilities to standard.
“We are calling on investors to come and partner with us to get the facilities out. We are looking at the next two to three years to complete everything so that we can have opportunity to host international competitions which would take us into the bigger league,” he added.
According to him, the pitch would be ready for use soon as the facility was 95 per cent completed, while grassing was about to commence, informing that, “the people grassing said it will be completed in the next one month. So the pitch would be ready for use in the next one or two months.
“We are also constructing the centre wicket. I have said it consistently that cricket is not played on mats. Cricket is played on grass, and the grass is what is called the turf, which a combination of the grass and the clay.”
Onyema added that, “the construction is purely a private initiative, which is part of my resolve to institutionalized the game and provide the needed facilities for playing the game.”
Speaking on efforts being made to take the game of cricket to the grass-roots, the NCF boss informed that apart from ensuring that it provided standard facilities, the federation had been able to introduce cricket to some sporting competition in the country.
“With our collective efforts, we have been able to take the game back to the grass roots, which is where it actually belongs. We have taken it to National Sports Festival (NSF) as well as the National Youths Games. We have taken it NUGA and it will be a medal event at the next NUGA Games holding in Makurdi. We want to make sure we have a standard facility,” he said.