The renovation of the Onikan Stadium by the Lagos State Government has evoked mixed reactions from football stakeholders in the state.
The stadium, which was built in 1930, is Nigeria’s oldest stadium, and sits on 21,386.85sq metres of land.
It was learnt that because of its rich historical background, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode decided to turn the landmark stadium into a world-class football arena.
The arena will have a capacity of 5,500 from the earlier 12,000.
However, the state government’s decision to convert the turf with natural grass into an artificial turf has met with mixed reactions.
A member of the Lagos State Football Association, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the stadium would have an artificial turf.
“The football pitch will be a FIFA-certified artificial turf,” he said.
But a football fan, Segun Adebayo, kicked against the plan to install an artificial turf at the stadium.
He said, “I am disturbed that Onikan is going to be converted into an artificial turf with a reduced capacity.
“If the state government wants to make it a truly world-class stadium then it should not have an artificial turf.
“It’s convenient for footballers to play on natural grass. I feel Lagos hasn’t hosted Super Eagles in recent times because the other major stadiums in the state have artificial turfs. So, the Onikan Stadium issue shouldn’t add to it.”
An LSFA member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, lamented the body had no input in the project.
He stated, “Since it’s a football stadium, they should have called for input from the association. The minimum capacity should have been 15,000; we should have projected a stadium that should be able to host the Super Eagles.
“What the state should do is to create a supplementary budget to expand the capacity.
“How can a stadium with such a rich history have an artificial turf? We should be able to have a turf with natural grass only. These are areas that should be looked into by the governor.”
But football analyst, Biola Kazeem, supports the state government.
He said, “There’s no demand for big stadiums in Nigeria. The national stadiums in Abuja and Lagos are rotting away, the Uyo Stadium is only useful for matches involving the Super Eagles, and the Teslim Balogun Stadium is never filled. So, I don’t know why we continue to build big stadiums.
“Unfortunately the artificial turf is a necessary evil because we never can maintain grass, so we need it.”
A football fan, Godfrey Okosun, is also in support of the artificial turf for the stadium, which was once named after King George V.
“It’s okay because it is more TV friendly and good for games,” he stated.