When the management of Etisalat Nigeria in 2013 announced the birth of a new football initiative, the Etisalat U-15 School Cup, the news was received with wild jubilation within and outside the football family and sports community in general. The reason was not for want of such age-grade competitions in the country for there were several ones already in existence, and neither was it for a perceived rivalry with the other football competition sponsors.
The noble ideal that the Etisalat School Cup espouses is encapsulated in its brand vision of creating credible platforms that promote and celebrate creativity. The Etisalat School Cup had started in that year as a five-a-aside tournament with the pilot phase hosted by Lagos State; three years down the line, it has assumed a national status with equal acceptance and growing participation across the length and breadth of the nation.
The recently concluded 2016 edition is a testimony in reference. For over three months, Nigerian youths of secondary school status with budding football talents from 32 states relished the opportunity created by the School Cup to showcase their talents Over 3,025 school teams made up of 16 players each took part in the competition which ran in phases beginning with the State Finals and then the regional play-offs before climaxing at the National Finals hosted by Lagos.
Given the nation’s multi-cultural nature, the Etisalat U-15 School is objectively set to connect and unite people from different parts of the country using the universal language of football. It is targeted at promoting shared life values, especially among the younger generation. The company’s Director, Brand and Experience, Elvis Ogiemwanye emphasised this goal recently while offering insights on the project.
“For us at Etisalat, football goes beyond winning medals and laurels; we are mindful of those life values that help people to become responsible members of the society even while pursuing their dreams. We want to instill these values in children for the well-being of the society. So, it is about the friendship and the connection it brings. It is also a good platform to teach these students life values such as team work, discipline, tolerance and sportsmanship,” he said.
Etisalat’s tendency for creating platforms is arguably second to none in the industry. The list of such platforms includes the trio of Etisalat Prize for Innovation, Etisalat Prize for Literature and Etisalat Photo Competition, all of which seek to reward creativity, originality and resourcefulness. Others are the Etisalat EasyBusiness Millionaire Hunt, Etisalat Merit Awards Scholarship Scheme and the Etisalat Telecommunication Engineering Postgraduate Programme (ETEPP). One infallible reason behind Etisalats commitment to platforms such as enumerated above including the School Cup lies in its own belief in enabling people to express themselves. Over the years, and through its key roles in either setting up or strengthening such platforms, it has lived up to its billing as an expressive brand.
Etisalat’s demonstrated commitment to creating platforms that enable people to express themselves irrespective of areas of gifting is not isolated from what the telecoms giant offers with its unique range of products, services and offerings. It prides itself as the nation’s leading innovative telecommunications company, not just as an advert pay-off or corporate cliché, but also in the real sense of that depiction. Going by this trend, it was therefore barely tasking to understand why the third season of the Etisalat School Cup took an innovative approach with the introduction of a world-class trophy tour in the cities that hosted the regional play-offs. The 2016 edition of the Etisalat School Cup may have been won and lost, but in view of the objectives the competition is set to achieve, there really is no loser.
Kalu Elvis is a student of FCT-based FOSLA Academy, which lost, in the final match to Asegun Comprehensive High School, Ibadan. His team lost the opportunity to be a million Naira richer with the players also missing out on a couple of thousands of Naira, but neither of these is strong enough in his estimation take away the gains accruable from participating in the competition.
“Etisalat has really tried in bringing grassroots footballers together to showcase their talent. I am happy for the opportunity to be part of this. I have only participated once in any age grade competition before now. I pray that it will continue to do so in the future,” he said. Kalu’s views may be personal, but it sure echoes the desires in many talented youngsters in his class. Fortunately for these budding talents, the Etisalat School Cup has come to stay, and with a commitment to helping them achieve their dreams.