Etisalat School Cup ignites battle for fame, fortune

FOSLA International Academy, Abuja, was one of the qualifiers from the Ilorin Zone of the Etisalat School Cup, which is holding centres across the country.

FOSLA International Academy, Abuja, was one of the qualifiers from the Ilorin Zone of the Etisalat School Cup, which is holding centres across the country.

It is that time in the year once again when students from across the country begin their quest to join the growing band of football super stars. Football is one sport with a universal appeal that no nation has found convenient or inexpensive to undermine.

Countries such as the USA and nations of the Middle East, which hitherto seemed not interested in the benefits from associating with the game, have now joined its global band of promoters. It remains to be seen if there is another sport that enjoys the worldwide cult followership football has.

Nigeria has produced such global super stars of football as Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, Kanu ‘Papillo’ Nwankwo, Sunday Ogorchukwu Oliseh, John Obi Mikel, Obafemi Martins, Taribo West, late Stephen Keshi, late Rashidi Yekini, Vincent Enyeama, Mercy Akhide-Udoh, Florence Omagbemi, Perpetua Nkwocha, Ann Chiejinne and Assisat Oshoala to mention just a few.

For over three decades, Nigeria has shone as a leading light in age-grade football competitions within and beyond the shores of the continent of Africa. Thanks to the then existing football administration structures that prioritized grassroots competitions. This dedication ensured these competitions served as platforms for discovering talented young footballers, who developed and donned the national colours.

Not a few lovers of the game, albeit older followers today, would forget the joys of those moments. Sadly, they are hard to come by now, except for the very few existing competitions. The picture is always going to appear gloomy, but not in the absolute considering the concerted efforts being put in place by such corporate citizens as Channels Television, Shell, GTB and most youth-friendly telecoms network, Etisalat Nigeria, organizers and sponsors of the annual Etisalat U-15 School Cup of which season three has since began with regional play-offs across four designated match centres.

A total of 32 school teams, comprising over 500 players representing 32 states are scheduled to help their teams gun for honours. But beyond the conventional attractions- cash rewards, educational grants, trophies and medals-is the prospect of being a key part of the development of the select pool of young talents that will be participating in the Championship.

For a nation currently hounded by recession, and which media and other information outlets are riddled with tales of doom and despair, the Etisalat School Cup is offering something to cheer about. And with the Nigerian Professional League going on a long break following the successful conclusion of the 2016 season, the School Cup represents a sure opportunity for Nigerians to see and enjoy local matches while the break lasts.

Being a national grassroots football competition, the Etisalat U-15 School Cup is designed to connect, engage and promote young football talents while also fostering and perpetuating national unity by connecting young and aspiring footballers from across the country and making them a team of future champions.

The Nigeria School Sports Federation (NSSF) is the supervisory body for school sports in the country. It is also the Championship partner, and has been so from inception.

The national President of NSSF, Mallam Ibrahim Muhammed, offered some valuable insights on the third edition of the Etisalat School Cup.

“We are excited at the prospect of reliving the fond memories most Nigerians have of grassroots football. Development football is key to the success of the national teams because of the seamless transition it offers to players. We are very excited that Etisalat has taken up this great responsibility to invest in the younger generation.’’

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