By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigeria will experience the first domestic use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in football matches at the 20th National Sports Festival to be hosted by Edo State from March 22 till April 1, 2020.
The technology was installed in the refurbished Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City, the Edo State capital where the event will take place.
The contractor handling the installations at the facility, Peculiar Ultimate Concern, said the technology had been installed, tested and ready to be used during the football tournament at the competition.
According to Mr Chinedu Agbo, a representative of the firm, the Edo State Government installed the VAR technology at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in line with global standard of football officiating.
“The high-resolution cameras inside the VAR Room have a capacity that can capture activities five kilometres within and outside the stadium.
“So, it invariably means that the VAR technology at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium is amongst the best anywhere in the world,” Mr Agbo explained.
On the part of the state government, the Chief Press Secretary to the Edo State Deputy Governor, Mr Ebomhiana Musa, said the introduction of VAR for the upcoming festival was a sign that the state was ready to host the best games ever in the country.
“This VAR technology is the only one in Nigeria and the third in Africa. But while the one in Morocco is collapsible, ours is permanently installed here.
“It is the same company that installed the VAR technology in Morocco that also did this one at Ogbemudia Stadium.
“It’s a landmark achievement in Nigerian sports and we are happy having it here in Benin City,” Mr Musa said.
The 11-day tournament will see more than 11,000 athletes from states compete across sporting activities from football, tennis, athletics, among others.
The event is also set to honour five heroes that hailed from Edo State: former Super Eagles Captain, Coach, and 1994 Africa Cup of Nations winner – Austin Eguavoen; ex-boxer Isaac Ikhuoria; ex-hurdler, Maria Usifo, former Team Nigeria captain and national long jump record holder, Yusuf Ali, and Paralympian, Esther Oyema.
Mr Eguavoen, was a member of the squad that qualified for the country’s first ever World Cup in 1994, winning the AFCON same year.
Mrs Usifo, 55, ruled Africa in the women’s 100m and 400m hurdles in the 1980s, winning both events at the 1987 All Africa Games in Kenya.
Mr Ikhuoria, 72, is a retired light-heavyweight boxer who won a bronze medal at the 1972 Olympic Games. He also won a gold medal at the 1973 All-Africa Games.
Retired long jumper, Mr Ali, 59, won a gold medal at the 1990 Commonwealth Games and was African champion in 1988 and 1989 and his national record of 8.37m has not been broken till date.
Paralympic gold medallist, Mrs Oyema, won gold at the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games.
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