Akwa Ibom stood tall as three African Heads of State and various important dignitaries from within and outside the sports circle were present at the grand opening of the newly constructed 30,000 seat Akwa Ibom International Stadium which has been named the ‘Nest of Champions’. After an elaborate ceremony, the stadium witnessed its inaugural game: a match between Nigeria’s local based Eagles and the U23 team from Ghana, the Black Meteors.
The game ended 1-0 in favour of the Nigerian team after a lone goal from Emem Eduok in the first half ensured a win for the home side and hand them the ‘Transformation Cup’, a new annual competition launched at the stadium.
The stadium ranks amongst one of the biggest achievements of Akwa Ibom Governor, Godswill Akpabio who has been credited with wholesale construction projects in the state including an airport and a power plant. With many commentators giving the edifice glowing reviews, Governor Akpabio and his team will feel accomplished.
The stadium opening was attended by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan as well as President of Ghana John Dramani Mahama and the Ivorian Head of State, Alassane Ouattara and Fred Crentsil , Vice President of Ghana Football Association, who was delegated by the Confederation of African Football to inspect the stadium, which as modeled after Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena, described it as being “among the best you can find anywhere in the world”.
Over the years, many have decried the lack of adequate investment in sports and with one of the key ingredients for enhanced development in sports being investment in key infrastructure, Akwa Ibom has thrown down a gauntlet in this regard. The new stadium is said to boast a range of facilities including state of the art dressing rooms, a training pitch annex, an eight lane Olympic sized track, medical centers, luxury hospitality suites and a 70 seat bullet proof state box.
The stadium has also been confirmed by newly elected NFF boss Amanju Pinnick to host the Super Eagles’ game against the Bafana Bafana, a crucial game in the African Cup of Nations qualifying series. The stadium will also host a high profile friendly international between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Selecao of Brazil on March 29, 2015 with Brazil expected to bring along all of the globally famous stars such as captain Neymar and David Luiz.
With the state also eager to boost sports development across board, the state announced that it had already secured an IAAF certification to host track and field events at the Akwa Ibom International stadium. This is particularly positive as this opens up opportunities to stage global sports meets and as well, harness the state’s potential for sports inclined tourism.
The Akwa Ibom International Stadium was constructed by Julius Berger.