The northern city of Kaduna, played host to school children from four states, namely Kano, Zamfara, Jigawa and Katsina, which participated in the Copa Coca-cola footballClinic on Thursday.
The programme which held across zones within the federation was introduced by Coca-cola to promote grassroots football as well as identify young talents and groom them to become great footballers.
Four coaches, including ex- international football star, Garba Lawal, handled the Kaduna training. Others were Usman Yinka Salahu, Absulkadir Aliyu Janga and a seasoned coach, Hassan Abubakar.
Each of the four states presented 20 school children for the training after which those below the age of 15 years were selected to play matches.
The event which was initially scheduled to hold at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium Kaduna (ABS) was shifted to the Living Faith Academy, Kaduna so as to afford children in the school opportunity to watch the matches.
The Kaduna State Coordinator, Nigerian Schools Sports Federation, Abel Yakubu, in an interview, explained that the essence of the exercise was to make the child know that sports cannot be separated from education.
“That is why the venue for the event was changed from the stadium to the school so that the children can see what is happening physically and theoretically.”
He said further that ex – International players and coaches were brought to take charge of the training so as to encourage the children.
“Most of the children must have heard about these former international stars, but they don’t know them. So their presence is a morale booster. If the programme had taken place at the stadium, the children here would not have had the opportunity of seeing these great former footballers.
“The convener of the event, Copa Coca-Cola asked us to designate three centres in Kaduna. They said we should take them to local football field and we picked three centres; Government Secondary School, Kaduna, Faith Academy and Rimi College” he explained.
According to Yakubu, the clinical aspect was aimed at teaching the children about the techniques of footballing.
“It is not just to kick the ball across the bar. They taught them all the skills that are involved in football. After the clinic, we would screen the children to see that are actually U-15. We don’t have any parameter to test them, but we are parents and by seeing a child, you should be able to determine his age.
“Before the training session commences, the children were admonished to be of good behaviour if they want to succeed,” he added.
Addressing the children, Lawal, who had a successful football career at home and abroad told the kids that the key success in football is discipline and hard work.
He said it was possible to go to school and play football, stressing that it is possible for them to pursue the two at the same time.
“I started playing football in 1989 and played for local and foreign football clubs. I played at the World Cup in 1998, I also played in the Olympic Games and I played at Africa Cup of Nations.
“I started playing football like you, at a younger age than many of you. I want you to play better than some of us here. You can go to school and still play football. But if you want to succeed, you must be discipline and respect coaches and everybody,” he said.
Also commenting on the initiative by Coca-Cola, Lawal noted that the process was the best way to get quality players.
“If you want to get quality players, this is where to get them because if any player does not understand the basics of football, it’s always a problem . If you know the basics at a young age, it is fantastic. The challenge we have among players is lack of continuity. You can have a good player today after some few weeks, you see him declining,” he added.
According to him, this process “has been helping Nigerian football. I have been with Coca-Cola for about eight years. The grand finale was fantastic, I believe this kind of programme would restructure Nigerian football. The kids are very lucky.”
He added that “during our time, we never had this kind training during, we played on the streets. If you are lucky you will excel. But it is a fantastic programme and I urge Coca-Cola to keep it up, although it is difficult considering the issue of funding.”
Also admonishing the children, Abubakar urged the children to be disciplined and respect their parents, teachers and coaches.
He said no matter how good one can play football, if the person is not disciplined, he will never make progress.
“Don’t misbehave to anybody. If you want to be great like Garba Lawal, you must be disciplined and hardworking,” he said.
He commended Coca-Cola for introducing the programme noting that it was aimed at greater tomorrow.
“I am happy with this programme because it is aimed at greater tomorrow. I call them greater tomorrow because with this contribution from Coca-Cola, I am sure they are helping some people to survive in their lives. Football today is business although some people may not look at it that way, but given proper support, the sky would be the limit for the children,” the coach said.
The children were subjected to over one hour of rigorous coaching after which those above 15 years were screened out.
Matches were played among the participating states.