Shade Adekunle
Sat, Jul 29, 2023 10:05 AM

Remembering Dr. Awoture Eleyae: A Legend's Enduring Legacy

SportsEarn Max 30 Coinsūüíį Get coins immediately after reading this article

Remembering Dr. Awoture Eleyae: A Legend's Enduring Legacy
Dr. Awoture Eleyae, a revered figure in Nigerian sports, passed away at the age of 96, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire athletes and sports enthusiasts alike. From his achievements as an athlete to his contributions as a coach and sports administrator, Eleyae's dedication to the development of sports in Nigeria and Africa have left an indelible mark. This article pays tribute to his remarkable career and explores his lasting impact on Nigerian sports.

LAGOS - From the early 1940s and unto Nigeria's Indepen­dence in 1960, not much is heard about the coun­try's sportsmen and women.

The absence of television robbed many Nigerians the opportunity to watch their he­roes and heroines, a majority of whom used to play or run bare-footed and without kits. One of the heroes of the time is Awoture Eleyae, whose great career and contributions formed the bedrock and symbol of Nige­ria's athleticism.

Remarkably, his prowess soared to high heavens. He was famous for his exploits in the 440 and 880 yards.

No wonder, Friday, July 21, 2023 will linger on for a long time in the hearts of many Ni­gerians, especially those in the sports community.

It was the day the entire coun­try and the continent of Africa lost one of its illustrious, dedi­cated, hardworking and loyal sons when it comes to sports development in person of Dr. Awoture Eleyae (OON).

The former Secretary Gener­al of the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa (SCSA), passed away at the age of 96 years in Benin City, Edo State.

Born on April 10, 1927, in Uzere, Isoko-South Council of Delta State, the late Eleyae had a distinguished career in sports administration and coaching. He captained the Nigerian Basket­ball team to the first All-African Games in 1965 and served as the National Chief Track and Field Athletics coach. Among his no­table achievements, Eleyae de­signed the Nigerian Institute for Sports (NIS) and served as its first Principal from 1975 to 1984.

His contributions extended beyond Nigeria's borders, as he held the position of Secretary General of the Supreme Coun­cil for Sports in Africa from 1992 to 2004. Throughout his career, Eleyae attended various inter­national professional bodies and participated in major sporting events like the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, and All Africa Games.

The late Eleyae was a bal­anced individual with superior athletic and academic qualities. At 96, he was still strong and healthy - a carryover from his active days as an athlete, coach, teacher, lecturer, and sports ad­ministrator in Nigeria, Africa, and beyond.

As a teenager, Eleyae's desire was to hit the top after deciding to combine football and athletics on the streets of Uzere, a com­munity in Isoko-South Local Council in present-day Delta State.

That was in the mid-1940s when he commenced elementa­ry education at the Native Au­thority (NA) Primary School in Uzere.

Though he started as a goal­keeper, it was in athletics that he realized his dream after he ran bare-footed to pick a silver medal for Nigeria in the 880 yards (half mile), during the Ghana Athlet­ics Championship in 1954.

Two years later, Enugu hosted the All Nigerian Athletics Cham­pionship and Eleyae, who was a student at the popular Govern­ment Teachers' Training College (GTTC), Abraka, set a national record in the 880 yards.

He had emerged the regional champion from the old Western Region, and the record he set in Enugu remained unbroken for five years, until Mohammed Pankshin from the present-day Plateau State erased it in 1959.

Later, academic excellence and sportsmanship would fetch him a Federal Government scholarship in 1960, which took him to Britain to study at Leeds University, Glasgow College of Physical Education, and the Loughborough University in Northern England.

He was still a student in Brit­ain when he attended the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, where he under-studied how the Games were organized.

He returned to Nigeria in 1962 and was quickly employed by the College of Arts, Science, and Tech­nology, Zaria, now Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). As a Physical Education lecturer in the college, Eleyae was handed a great task by then Amateur Athletics As­sociation (AAA), to lead the national team to the Dakar Friend­ship Games, where his athletes, including policeman, Sam Igun, David Ejoke, and late A.K Amun, did wonders by winning 10 gold medals to top the table.

The Dakar Friendship Games later gave rise to the All Africa Games. He also discovered other great athletes, including Emilia Edet and Violet Odogwu-Nwajei. In fact, it was Eleyae, who con­verted Violet Odogwu-Nwajei from high jump to the hurdles and long jump events.

He coached the athlete to the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica, where Violet picked bronze in the long jump to set a record as the first African female athlete to achieve that.

In 1970, Eleyae led another Nigerian team to the Common­wealth Games in Edinburg, with late General Henry Adefope as Chef-de-Mission. In his squad was the high-flying Modupe Oshikoya, a long and high jump specialist. Oshikoya was de­clared the best African athlete at the 1974 edition of the Games in Australia.

The late Eleyae later served as Director of Sports in the old Bendel State, where he rose to become chairman of the Sports Council.

He capped his career with his appointment as Secretary Gen­eral of the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa, a position he held for several years. Eleyae in an interview attributed the decline in the nation's school sports system, which, according to him, is a result of the dearth of Physical Education (PE) in both public and private schools.

Solomon Ogba, former Delta State Sports Commissioner and two-time President of the Athlet­ics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), and currently the vice president of the Nigeria Olympics Com­mittee (NOC), expressed his deep sorrow over Eleyae's death.

Ogba praised Eleyae's in­strumental role in laying a sol­id foundation for sports in Ni­geria and inspiring numerous individuals to pursue sports as a career. Eleyae's guidance and mentorship made him a father figure to many in the sporting community.

"Eleyae's educational journey was marked by excellence, earn­ing diplomas and degrees from prestigious institutions, includ­ing Ahmadu Bello University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Campus. His commitment to education and sports instruction extended to lecturing roles at the Universi­ty of Lagos", said Ogba.

Chairman, Gombe State Ath­letics Association (GAA), Hon. Ahmed Shuaibu Gara Gombe, described the demise of Eleyae as a huge loss to sports globally and promised to set up athletics competition in his memory.

Gara said the vacuum created by Eleyae's demise will take mil­lions of years to fill.

To this end, he said, for being so dutiful to sports development all his life, he would set up an Athletics Competition in his memory.

"Dr. Eleyae did so much for sports in Nigeria, Africa, and the world as he laid a sustain­able foundation for sports in Nigeria and by extension on the continent as well.

"He was an inspiration to many men and women, including administrators in sports, and be­came a father to so many of us. I will surely miss him," Gara said.

He was a member of many international professional bodies. While serving as a National Chief Track and Field Athletics coach, the late Eleyae captained the Nigerian basketball team to the first All Africa Games in 1965. The loss of his beloved wife earlier this year added to the personal challenges he faced in 2023. His dedication to sports endured, and he continued to contribute actively despite per­sonal adversity.

Dr. Awoture Eleyae leaves be­hind a lasting impact on Nigeri­an sports, and his influence will be cherished by all those whose lives he touched.

As the nation reflects on his remarkable contributions, the void he leaves behind will serve as a reminder of his unparal­leled dedication and passion for sports development in Nigeria and Africa.

Source of content: OOO News 2023-07-29 News

More detailed, more comprehensive, fresher news, please visit OOO NEWS.

Share content to earn coins