Super Eagles defender, Echiejile, launches 100 Smiles project for indigent children
Children from Benin City and its environs were full of gratitude to Super Eagles’ defender, Elderson Echiejile at the weekend for giving them the opportunity to make meaning of their lives through their football talents.
The occasion was the launch of 100 Smiles, a grassroots development initiative by the former Insurance of Benin captain, who was accompanied to his former lair, Ogbemudia Stadium, by some of his international teammates.
Explaining his decision to give back to the society through the initiative, the defender, who just joined Turkish side, Sivasspor, said grassroots football was a major source for identifying and developing sports prodigies in the country.
Echiejile described the100 Smiles initiative as an age-grade football competition aimed at developing the skills of indigent children in Edo State.
Echiejile, who awarded football scholarships and certificates to the top 11 players at the launch, encouraged the over 250 participants to stay in school and also remain focused on developing their skills. He explained that one of the key things that has brought him thus far in his career was the belief in himself regardless of his background.
He revealed that the 100 Smiles initiative focuses on the empowerment of indigent Nigerian children between the ages of five and 16 through sports development.
Also speaking at the event, Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, who was the special guest at the event, reiterated the government’s policy of making the state an export hub for sports talents in Nigeria.
Shaibu advised the participants to combine education with their love for sports, for them to have other options to fall back on when they end their football careers.
The deputy governor also encouraged other foreign-based professionals to emulate Echiejile by coming back to their roots and helping the youngsters get to the peak of their careers.
On loan Porto star and fellow Super Eagles’ player, Mikel Agu also graced the event to lend support to the initiative.