In the heart of Ajegunle, Lagos, lies a sprawling sports edifice, as modern and equipped as any existing anywhere in the world. With over 3,000 children playing different categories of football on the 19 pitches, one can be forgiven if he thinks that he is in one of the top European club training facilities.
But the difference is that the new-look Maracana Stadium, just behind the Apapa Quays, has two sprawling 96-bed each hostels named after two of Europe’s well-known stars, Wilfred Ndidi of England’s Leicester City and Karim Adeyemi of Borussia Dortmund.
According to the financiers, Ndidi and Adeyemi donated some money for the construction of the hostels.
Powered by the Nathaniel Idowu Foundation, the new Maracana Stadium embodies the dream of every Nigerian talented young kid, most of whose schools don’t have playing grounds.
On Saturday, October 22, 2023, some of these starry-eyed kids, Nigeria’ future stars, were at the complex to watch their dream unfold and elicit more fantasy of a future made brighter by a singular act of philanthropy.
Among dignitaries at the venue when Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh, came to inspect the facility were traditional rules, top sports administrators, journalists and sports enthusiasts from within and outside Ajegunle.
Although Ajegunle is regarded by outsiders as a tough community, where only the brave survive, the new Maracana Stadium has the potential to erase such misconception and present the community for what it is, a talent incubator.
Extolling the community for giving him the opportunity to contribute to Nigeria’s football development, Nathaniel Idowu Foundation’s Chairman, Chief Yemi Idowu, said the construction of the facility was made possible by the support of the host community.
“We are very grateful to have the Sports Minister here and all the dignitaries. Ajegunle is a lovely place and I’m so proud we have this facility here. I love Ajegunle and the reason we chose here is because Ajegunle has got the heartbeat and the children are here.
“They are ready and they have received us. The Royal father, the local government. Everyone has been part of this and that is why it had to be Ajegunle. We are on a long journey and this is the beginning.
We’ve got infrastructures for football in place, there’s the hostels. Other facilities like the swimming pool, table tennis, tennis and basketball will come on board”.
We will have a recreation hall, a canteen, kitchen and all of these are still coming. So, the more we have such facilities inside here, the less social vices you have outside,” Idowu said.
Idowu said that other facilities would be added to the existing structure to accommodate more sporting activities.
“We are on a long journey and this is just the beginning. Other facilities for basketball, tennis, table tennis, swimming pool will come.
“We are still putting in placed the hostels and a recreation hall, a canteen and kitchen. The more you have something to do inside here the less social vices you will get,” he said.