Wife of the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Olayemi Oyebanji, has urged parents to encourage their female children to participate in sporting activities, especially football to make name and money for themselves and their families.
Dr. Oyebanji said sports development is very central to the Ekiti development agenda of her husband, Governor Biodun Oyebanji and has been recognized as a big business that can be tapped into to take the state’s economy to greater heights and generate more employment opportunities.
The First Lady made the remarks on Wednesday when she hosted members of the Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL) Board led by the Chairman, Nkechi Obi, who were on a visit to the state to seek her support for female football, especially, the Ekiti Queens Football Club.
According to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant (Media), Office of the First Lady, Odunayo Ogunmola, Obi also led other executive members to the state to intimate football stakeholders on the agenda of the NWFL Board for the development of female football in Ekiti and others states in Nigeria.
Obi also used the forum to officially invite the Ekiti First Lady to the NWFL Annual General Assembly (AGA), as a special guest of honour in recognition of her contribution to female football in the state.
Dr. Oyebanji who was represented by the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Peju Babafemi, said she was impressed by the Women Football Right Strategy, which was unveiled by the NWFL boss, noting that Ekiti was ready to key into the blueprint to give a lift to female football in the state.
According to her, the Oyebanji Administration places much premium on human capital development, noting that the state government was ready to join hands with the NWFL in ensuring that the vision as contained in the Strategy, is actualized to the benefit of all stakeholders.
The First Lady also commended the Ekiti State House of Assembly for the speedy passage of the bill for the establishment of the Ekiti State Sports Commission to ensure that sports gets the adequate attention it deserves and also serves as a springboard for empowerment and to be driven as business and not as a leisure only.
She said: “Sports development is central in Ekiti State development agenda and for us in Ekiti, sports is a very big business. I also want to appeal to parents to encourage our female children to participate in sports, especially football.
“Football is a good avenue to empower girls and so parents must support their girl child in ensuring that they are not discouraged at that. We know that traditionally football is a male-dominated sport but things are changing and eyes are opening.”
The First Lady restated her readiness to always give maximum support to Ekiti Queens Football Club and make it a recognized brand in sports and an instrument to empower Ekiti girls economically and socially.
She urged players, coaches, administrators and other officials of the Club to always work together as a team to realize the state government’s ambition of making it the number one female football club in the country.
Earlier in her remarks, NWFL Chairman, Ms. Obi said the Board came to Ekiti to share its vision and agenda for the development of the female football league because of the recognition of the roles of the First Lady and other stakeholders in female football.
She noted that since the majority of football clubs in Nigeria are owned by state governments, they were in the state to acquaint them with the right steps to take to broaden the scope of the female football league as it concerns stakeholders like players, coaches, referees, administrators, among others.
Obi unveiled the initiatives to include capacity development, more media presence for female clubs on digital media, sponsorship packages, mentoring and twinning with clubs in Spain, Italy, and Germany, among others and the discovery of more talents for national teams.
The NWFL chair disclosed that the league has been redesigned from next season into a 16-team Premier League, 20-team Championship and State Leagues for players between ages 14 and 19 while a coaching development programme is coming up in February.
She added: “For all these to happen, we need the support of all of you stakeholders and we want to tap into the generosity of the First Lady for Ekiti to benefit from all these programmes we have outlined.”