Despite the popularity enjoyed by football and the unprecedented media hype accorded the first ever World Cup on African soil, the All Nigeria, NNPC, Mobil Track and Field Championship holding in Calabar, Cross River State from June 24 to 26 will live up to expectations says Paul Bassey.
The managing Director, DP Communications, who is also the consultant to the championship told journalist during the week that all is set for Nigeria's premier athletics competition.
"We are set. As I am talking to you, the president of the AFN, Chief Ogba is in the US coordinating the invited foreign athletes, while the Cross River State Government is putting finishing touches to the will of becoming an exemplary host," he said.
"The 21st in the series, this year's championship promises to be keener thanks to the decision by the AFN to insist on minimum entry standards.
" The championship will serve as a qualifier for the African Championship and the Commonwealth Games in India so there is need to guarantee that whosoever gets out from here is not only fit, but able to represent the country well outside" Bassey added.
To round up the historic golden league that will end with the Warri leg, the Mobil Championship will see the presence of stars in their peak, eager to burn the Calabar tracks.
Asked whether it would not have been advisable to move the Championship till after the World Cup given the possibility of it being submerged by World Cup frenzy, Bassey said a thought was given to it, but that the athletics calendar is already fixed and independent of other sports.
"If we wait for the world cup to end, when are we going to prepare the athletes for the African championship which kicks off on July 28 in Kenya. It is just like suggesting that because the World Cup is on, Wimbledon tennis scheduled to start in June should be put on hold.
" I have interacted with my colleagues in the media and I am happy to deal with gentlemen who are daily castigating the minister for being a football minister, so here is an opportunity for them to practice what they preach by according us enough media space and attention" Bassey added.
Also going for the championship is the fact that by the time it kicks off on June 24, the Super Eagles would have concluded its first round matches, the last one being the match against South Korea in Durban on June 22.
"By the time they play their second round match as winner of Group B on June 27 by 7.30pm, we would have been done and back to our respective homes" Bassey concluded.
After the celebration of 20 years of consecutive sponsorship, the sponsors and the AFN decided to take the championship outside Abuja and Lagos and the beautiful facilities at U.J.Esuene stadium in Calabar was a major attraction, especially the natural grass that supports field events.
Another plus going for Cross River is the ambitious athletics programme that the state is embarking upon. Silently, the state has recruited American coaches and they are busy combing the grass roots for stars who will soon bloom and the hosting of the championship is seen as a catalyst that will help ginger the programme.