By Duro Ikhazuagbe
As part of measures to fortify teams from the South-south geopolitical zone of the country as well as create a pool of fresh football talents for the country, winners of FA Cups of the six states have been listed to take part in a Champion of Champions Tournament scheduled to hold in Benin.
Already, Edo State Football Association and its sponsor, FROT Group, have concluded talks on the tournament.
States expected to feature in the eight-team tournament include Edo, Delta, Cross River, Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom. The runner up of the Edo FA final and Insurance FC of Benin City are to make up the list of teams for the tournament that has N1million as prize money with N500,000 for the second placed team.
Speaking in Lagos at the weekend, Chairman, Edo FA, Frank Ilaboya, revealed that the success recorded during the state’s FA Cup final sponsored by FROT Group prompted the decision to organise the Champion of Champions competition for teams from the South-south zone.
“The South South Champion of Champions, which will hold in the middle of May, will help the teams from the zone to test their might against the possible opposition they will meet during the national championship. It is also part of our efforts to revive the Edo State football culture.
“Our vision is to keep Edo State busy at all times and also give the budding talents in our state the avenue to express themselves.”
Ilaboya disclosed that the competition would involve national team coaches at all levels, adding that at the end of the competition they will keep a database of all the players who featured in the competition.
He added: “We will play in two centres, which is the Sam Ogbemudia Stadium and the University of Benin sports centre with eight teams including Edo FA Cup runners up and the Insurance of Benin.
“We have already discussed with the FA chairmen of the states and they have agreed to be part of it. We have also informed the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), who arte the custodians of the game in the country and they are in support of it.”
While also throwing light on the tournament, President of FROT Group, Frank Momoh, said his company plans to help grow football in the country because it is the biggest galvaniser of the youths of the country, adding that many Nigerians can make their living through football.
“The Edo FA Cup was the pilot project we used to know the nitty-gritty of football sponsorship. Because of its success, we decided to take it a little notch higher.
“We were able to see some diamonds that need polishing and so we decided to bring all the FA Cup winners of the South-south states to the Champion of Champions Tournament.
“The Champion of Champions winner will get N1 million, while the second placed team will get N500, 000. All the teams will get appearance fees. The competition will be in a knockout format, with final holding at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City.
Momoh is anticipating that other zones of the country will key into this tournament by also creating platforms to keep their youths busy.
“I hope all the other zones will borrow a leaf from this initiative and start their own competition so that we can have a national championship in the future,” concludes the FROT Group president.