• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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BusinessDay

Seven years of running through the streets for international stars

In this contemporary world, talent has become an important ingredient for national development. Individual talent has become a yardstick to measure a nation’s progress. While many nations have been recognised by unique contribution of an individual via his talent to lift the nation above board, others have been blacklisted by just one person’s misdeed.

More relatively, no nation that aspires for greatness can afford to leave its latent talent in the oblivion or in vulnerable position. In a local parlance, it is said that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Therefore, raw talents, most especially at the incubating stages, must be harnessed for positive usage and resourceful investment.

The ‘street’ in general terms, are noted for different things, but in real sense, the negative part of it has continued to supersede the positive ones. There are street urchins, gangsters, hawkers and in more familiar way, ‘area boys’. But interestingly, it is not always odd news about the street. There are also street talents, notably in music, dance or sports.

Globally, talent development has been seen as the vehicle towards achieving greater developmental change and productivity in every society. In Nigeria, the philosophy isn’t different. That is why governments and corporate bodies are investing heavily in discovering and nurturing talents. Brands today are making sure that they keep the nation’s future alive by devoting part of their profit in building talents. Though many brands shy away from this, few take it as ‘must-do’ responsibility to keep Nigeria’s hope alive. MTN Nigeria is one of such brands.

The company has over the years through several programmes, discovered, nurtured and raised brought many youths to stardom. Platforms like MTN Football Scholar and MTN Project Fame have been used to discover globally recognised superstars. With other innovative programmes like MTN Songstar, from the company, many youths have been given a platform to compete with other developed future stars.

Today, MTN Nigeria is discovering young football talents in the streets of Lagos, through its partnership with the Lagos State Government in an initiative tagged “MTN Lagos Street Soccer”. MTN Lagos Street Soccer was conceived to bring and discover raw football talents that abound on the streets of Lagos, polish and put them on a global platform to compete for recognition and success. MTN Lagos Street Soccer is now in its seventh consecutive years of discovering local talent across the street of Lagos State.

MTN-StreetSoccer

Meanwhile, football is recognised as a unifying factor in the Nigeria polity, therefore a larger chuck of the stakeholders has seen it as a platform, not only to discover the teeming talents that abound across the country but also to push for avenue to unite and positively engage the people.

Speaking at the last year’s grand finale of the championship, Mike Ikpoki, the chief executive officer of MTN, reiterated MTN’s commitment to the promotion of sport that held the power to unite the country.

“We recognise that soccer is the platform that unites us as a nation and a continent. That is why we have invested in sponsoring major soccer tournaments, at the highest level, such as past editions of the African Nations Cup and the FIFA World Cup. At the national level, we have also shown our commitment through the sponsorship of various initiatives such as MTN Football Scholar.

“The MTN Lagos Street Championship presents a unique opportunity for a new generation of soccer stars, in Nigeria, to discover their football skills while gaining valuable soccer experience that will enable them hold their own, at various levels of the competition. “More so, this soccer tournament helps to channel the energies of the youths constructively, thereby diverting them from negative practices, which are detrimental to their future and the society at large,” he said.

It is no secret that soccer remains an abiding passion for Nigerians. When it comes to sports, the contact game has been considered as one of the greatest unifying platforms, which is used to harmonise the country’s dichotomies. But the major fact is that sports, in general and football in particular, remain the major platforms where abounding talents in the grassroots can be discovered, harnessed and positioned for international recognition and importance.

This is what MTN, through the Lagos State Government is achieving, by combining the streets in all the local governments and local council development areas of the state, to get the rare gems with football skills and prepare them for international positioning.

Going through the history of Nigeria soccer development, it is a known fact that a good number of the past and present Nigerian soccer stars were discovered on the streets. Notable super stars such as Stephen Keshi, present head coach of the Super Eagles; Samson Siasia, Emmanuel Amunike, Jonathan Akpoborie, goal-king, late RashidiYekini, Haruna Lukmon, Brown Ideye, Taribo West and Taye Taiwo, all started from the street before they became globally recognised superstars.

Lagos State is not a strange place in this. Noted for its cosmopolitan status and being the melting-point of various Nigerian identities, the state rightly became a home for budding football talents, who dominate its countless streets. It is obvious that the state will definitely, harbour a good number of football talents on its streets. Therefore, that MTN has taken it upon itself to comb the streets for international stars is indeed, salutary.

That is why at the closing ceremony of the 6th edition, Joke Orelope-Adefulire the deputy governor of Lagos State, gave kudos to the telecommunication company for the initiative, saying: “We thank MTN Nigeria, for supporting this and many other initiatives from Lagos State. With their sponsorship of MTN Lagos Street Soccer, for over five years, the impacts have been very positive in the lives of many youths in the streets of Lagos and we hope we will continue to have this kind gesture from them” she said.

Aside from introducing the female category in the 5th edition, the initiative went further last year, with the new idea of discovering the talents at the age of fifteen and below. This is in line with the determination of the Ministries of Youth, Sports and Social Development and Education to develop school sports, in the state. This new innovation is based on the philosophy of “catch them young”, a veritable platform for the discovery of new generation of players and promotion of academic excellence.

To many soccer analysts and pundits, the initiative is on the threshold of revitalising age-group competition, not only in empowering and making the youngsters realising their dreams, but also setting a formidable platform for them to hit the global stage.

“I am extremely grateful to MTN Nigeria and Lagos State Government, for giving us- the less privilege and the street young stars a chance to showcase our God-given talent. With this initiative, we see ourselves becoming the Okochas and Kanus of this World,” John Daniel, the Captain of the 2013 U-15 Category winning team, said.

MTN Nigeria has set the ball rolling; one can only hope that other multinationals will emulate the leading telecommunication network in Nigeria in promoting grassroots sport development.