A football tournament to fish out hidden sports talents among Delta students in private and public secondary schools is set to kick off at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba on Monday, September 30.
About 1,000 schools are expected to participate in the tournament, but 850 schools have already indicated interest.
Known as the Zenith Bank Delta Principals’ Cup, the football tournament which it’s preliminaries commenced Monday, September 23 at various local areas, would have the semi-final matches at zonal levels of the state from October 26 to 21.
The quarter finals would be played in four venues on October 30; semifinals would be played in two venues on November 4 while third final matches with a curtain raiser would be on November 21 at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba.
Patrick Ukah, commissioner for basic and secondary education, explained reason behind the spreading of the finals in different venues, saying, “It is designed that the matches would be played at venue convenient to the teams that are playing so that the travelling period and distances would be reduced as much as possible.”.
He said that the state would tackle the issue of over-age players. “We are going to peg the age of the players at sixteen. Those from 17 above should go to the national team”.
He disclosed that a lot of remunerations, including cash prize for the winners at the LGAs would be introduced this time, adding that efforts were in top gear for the institutionalization of the tournament.
“We are going to make sure that we institutionalize the tournament so that the date of the commencement and that of the ending would be known. Like it is done in the past, the principals’ cup starts in the first term of school calendar and ends in the first term”, he said.
‘We’ve been discussing with Zenith Bank how to grow this tournament into something bigger. We’ve have the headmasters cup and now the Zenith Principals Cup. It is believed that should be the breeding ground to preparing the stars that would take over at the elite level of sports. I think this is what education through the schools are expected to do for our sports commission; to bring out the talents at the school level that they can grow after the school level to represent this state”.
The representative of Zenith Bank Plc, Dickson Egede in his speech, said that the annual ‘Catch Them Young” initiative football event is certainly going to be an improvement from the previous editions.
He revealed that the enthusiasm of the players in the previous editions of the tournament were impressive as there were feedbacks about the skills exhibited by the players from the various centres, and that’s the basis to hold the competition yearly.
He said that the bank was committed to the development of youths in supporting various endeavors in the country.
While elated at the bank’s partnership with the state, he said the bank expected a keen contest and urged the organizers to ensure fair-play during the competition to ensure true winners emerge.
We are committed to exploring ways of bringing values to the state in order to build the already existing relationship, Egede concluded.
Mercy Enoch, Asaba