Rivers United Football Club are likely to play the rest of their CAF Confederation Cup matches at the Adokie Aimiesiamaka Stadium, Port Harcourt, after spending the early part of the campaign at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo.
The Nigerian champions were forced to relocate to Uyo when the Confederation of African Football (CAF) did not approve their home ground, Adokie Aimiesiamaka Stadium, for the competition.
CAF’s reason for not approving the stadium for Rivers United’s games was that the facilities at the arena were not up to the standard required for such matches. But that is about to change, because after inspecting the facility, the CAF team acknowledged that the arena has changed such that it can compete with any stadium in Africa given some minor changes.
Speaking on his findings, yesterday, after going through the stadium’s facilities, CAF delegate, Nasir Jibril, expressed surprise at the current state of the arena, saying it is almost ready for international matches.
He said: “I think the work done in the last couple of months is very impressive. The dressing room has changed and is looking beautiful, the reserve benches are totally new and up to the standard accepted everywhere and the pitch’s grass is better. I am not saying it is 100 per cent all right; but it is like 10 times better than it was before. Based on our check list of what to look out for, I think the stadium has ticked basically 75 per cent of the boxes.”
He declined to state if CAF would approve the stadium for use for its competitions, saying the decision rests with CAF. “CAF will decide on the stadium after going through the pictures and videos I will send to them. Of course, they will ask for my opinion while taking their decision. But I must say that I am impressed by what I have seen.”
He acknowledged that the stadium has always been good for football from inception, adding, however, poor maintenance has been its bane. “It has not been cleaned for a long time. This is an excellent place, but it must always be put to use. Use, clean and use. It has excellent toilet facilities and VIP, VVIP lounges are big enough to take about 500 persons.”
He appealed to the stadium managers to build a venue operations centre (VOC) inside the stadium, saying it is important for seamless management of games. Also speaking, Chief of Staff to Sports Minister, Alhaji Abba Yola, commended Rivers State government for effecting changes in the facility, saying Nigeria now has a ground to ask CAF to approve the venue for Rivers United. Yola advised the stadium managers to continue improving on the facilities, saying the stadium can host the CAF Confederation Cup final if the facility remains in excellent state.
Yola, who was in Port Harcourt as Federal Ministry of Sports’ representative on the inspection team, said they would work to ensure that CAF approves the stadium. “When the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, heard that CAF has given Rivers United a lifeline to play at the Adokie Stadium, ‘he was excited’ for the Federal Government, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the Rivers State government.
IMC general manager, who was at the stadium as an observer, also echoed Yola’s optimism that the stadium would pass CAF’s test, saying that Nigerians should commend Rivers State government for the job it has done on the facility.