Statistics have shown that over 10 million youths in Nigeria, between ages 10 to 35 with largely no income represent a huge market companies can reach and impact positively on the society.
After so many years of neglect of these youths despite its large market size, organisations are beginning to reckon with the importance to the society and how they can unearth the hidden treasures which lie within.
The just concluded MRS U-12 Football Tournament which has been organised for some years now is a model example of grassroots sports and youth development and the organisers of the programme, have promised that it would remain its top priority to help children realise their potentials in football at an early stage.
Researches has identified that a market for grassroots football can’t be taken for granted, even at a primary level. For instance, 80 to 90 per cent of suburban Lagos youth play football but the inner cities have relatively few people or companies promoting kids football.This segment of the football market in Nigeria is largely neglected.
The fourth edition of the MRS U-12 football competition can be viewed as a remarkable achievement in the history of the organisation, as it has clearly identified itself as a major partner toward improving the standard of football from the grassroots and also contributing to youth development in the country. The tournament can also be seen as a way for MRS Oil Nigeria Limited to give back to the society.
Since the inception of the project, the competition has seen number of participants grow from just over 600 to about 1920 kids during the last competition. The competition has also rewarded several teams over the years with the first prize, both male and female receiving a sum of N250,000 while the second and third are rewarded with N150,000 and N100,000, respectively.
As seen since its inception, the aim is to discover young talented players who will represent the country in future international competitions. The catchword therefore is ‘Catch them Young’.
The competition was all a sheer of skillful innocence and brilliance as the Young Boys Academy of Ajah emerged the winner of MRS U-12 kids’ Cup after thrashing K&B Ace, Dopemu by 4-0 at the final match played at the Campos Mini Stadium, Lagos Island.
The colourful event which was organised to celebrate Children’s Day saw goals from Opadotun Emmanuel, Kosoko Dolapo who scored double and Aleilo Fuadensured that the Young Boys Academy went home with the prize money of N250, 000 while K&B Ace were rewarded with the sum of N150, 000 for the runners up prize.
In the third place encounter, Tao United, Oke-Afa and YS Academy, Apapa to pick loser’s price money of N100, 000 ended in a stalemate of 2 – 2 with Tao United winning 2 – 1 on penalties.
In the U-16 girls’ finals, Mary Academy, Sabo defeated Aloro Girls, Epe by 2-0 and went home with N250, 000, while Aloro received N150, 000 as runners up.
In the loser’s final, MM Queen, Igando smiled home with the sum of N100, 000 for their efforts after trouncing Gbemi Queen, Ilasa by 2-0.
In his remarks about the reason for organising the competition, the Managing Director of MRS Oil Nigeria Limited, Mr. Andrew Gbodume stated that “as a fast growing company, MRS had great passion and commitment to Africa and its people. The general focus is to put the company on the global listing of world class companies impacting positively in the society in which it operates. Our trade mark is ‘Excellence through partnership.”
All over the world, sports play very significant role in the behavioral pattern of the people; the sport men/women and the followers which is why till date, sports is regarded as one of the unifying forces in the country and the world at large.
Here in Nigeria, after religion, sports, especially football brings everybody together in one accord. It is common place to see people from the over 300 ethnic groups in Nigeria drinking and hugging themselves each time our national team, the Super Eagles are victorious in any game.
“Examples abound of players who are stars today because they were discovered at a tender age. The major financier of sport is government but MRS is determined not to leave everything to government as government cannot do it all alone because of other priorities. The company therefore called on all other like-minded organisations to take up the challenge and give back to the society.
“The objective of MRS Under-12 championship is to complement the effort of the government and the nation’s football ruling body, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in their hunt for young talents from the grassroots, which is aimed at discovering the likes of Mikel Obi, Victor Moses, Ahmed Musa and Sunday Mba, among others, that have done the nation proud,” the MRS boss stated.
Speaking further on the future editions of the competition, Gbodume promised that the company would continue sponsoring the competition, which according to him, has achieved its purpose since the maiden edition.
Gbodume stressed that the company decided to sponsor the tournament as one of its little token to contribute back to the society and also bring out the best in the youth, adding that if the youth were properly engaged they will be useful to the society.
“We have been privy to see great young teams over the years come and showcase remarkable talent and the best teams have won the trophy each year. It is a fantastic event and we are proud to have continuously organised and sponsor thiscompetition. I want to assure you that the next edition which would also be the 5thanniversary of this remarkable initiative would be bigger and better”, he said.
Further disclosing on the need for such competition, Gbodume said, “The youths need to be occupied in order not to become touts in the society. Sports is a unifying factor and If they (youths) are properly engaged they will be useful to the society. I can see future stars among the players that featured in this tournament.”
Apart from monetary reward, trophies and medals were awarded to the teams and individuals who distinguished themselves in the tournament.