Bayelsa State Governor Douye Diri has underscored the critical importance of referees in advancing Nigerian sports, particularly football, to gain international recognition.

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Speaking at the 2024 Nigeria Football Referees Association Annual General Meeting in Yenagoa, Governor Diri, represented by the State Commissioner for Sports Development, Hon. Daniel Igali, emphasized that referees play a vital role in the outcome of games and must uphold the highest standards of fairness and professionalism.

“Referees play a crucial role in the development of football, ensuring fair play and equity in sports. As we look to the future, we call upon referees to uphold the highest standards of officiating, preparing themselves for international stages and contributing to the growth of football worldwide,” Igali stated on behalf of the Governor.

The Governor’s remarks underscore the state government’s commitment to using sports, particularly football, as a cornerstone for human capital development and economic growth. Igali revealed that Bayelsa has already hosted four national sporting events this year, with more planned before the end of 2024.

To further demonstrate this commitment, Igali announced that the state government will begin construction of a 30,000-seat capacity stadium in Yenagoa in the third quarter of 2024. This move is aimed at accommodating Bayelsa’s “massive sports appetite” and providing a world-class facility for the development of sports talent. 

The President of the Nigeria Referees Association, Alhaji Sani Zubair, expressed gratitude for the state government’s support and acknowledged the Governor’s love for sports development as a “symbol of hope” in the industry. Zubair also emphasized the association’s efforts to equip referees with the latest innovations and ensure their participation in international events.

The Governor’s emphasis on the critical role of referees in Nigerian sports development aligns with the broader recognition of the importance of officiating in the success of any sporting event. Referees are responsible for enforcing the rules of the game, ensuring fair play, and maintaining the integrity of the sport. Their impartiality and professionalism are essential for the growth and international recognition of Nigerian sports. 

By prioritizing the development and welfare of referees, the Bayelsa State Government is taking a proactive step in strengthening the foundation of Nigerian sports, particularly football. This initiative is expected to have a ripple effect, not only on the performance of Nigerian teams at the international level but also on the overall perception and reputation of Nigerian sports globally.