For lovers of youth football development, it was a fascinating two –day feast at the Campos Mini-Stadium in Lagos as the Seyi Akinwunmi U13 Football Tournament lit up the Lagos Island and environs at the weekend.
Akinwunmi, who is the 1stVice President of the Nigeria Football Federation and Chairman of its Youth Development Committee, is a man known globally for his passion for the youth. His Foundation (the Seyi Akinwunmi Charity Foundation) also organizes an annual year –ending mini-tournament at the same venue.
On why the U13 Tournament was conceived and delivered, the debonair lawyer who is also Chairman of the Lagos State Football Association told thenff.com: “The Mini-Tournament that we stage every December is actually meant for the young ones, but adults have gradually started taking over the show and I just decided that we should have a separate program for the children.
“This is my passion; this is my love. It is not about hugging the limelight; it is simply about unearthing talents and giving them a sense of belonging. There are little children who can play the game and are just waiting to be discovered. Our focus is on the intelligent but indigent children, and we want to prove that those who play football can also go to school. It is about education and football rolled into one.”
Invited for the two –day event were LGEA Central School, Kwara State; Emmanuel Anglican Nursery and Primary School, Ekiti State; Baptist Government Secondary School, Osun State; X-Planter Primary School, Lagos State; Abogo Largemo Military Cantonment Primary School, Borno State and; Eko Football Future Stars.
The tournament was won by the boys from Ekiti, after an enthralling final match against LGEA boys from Kwara State that went to penalty shoot –out after a 2-2 draw and had everyone rooting for more. The Baptist boys from Osun State won the third place match after spanking X-Planter boys from Ikorodu 3-1 on the final day. In an exhibition match, the boys from Borno State pipped Eko Future Stars 1-0 – a shock result given that the Future Stars had defeated their opponents 4-1 in another match 24 hours earlier.
Among dignitaries who attended the finale on Sunday were President of Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick, who opted to sponsor three of the children in the victorious squad through his Brownhill Foundation, while also giving the sum of N200,000 to the boys from Borno State; Akinwunmi and his lovely wife Jumoke; NFF Board Members Babagana Kalli and Aisha Falode; NFF Congress members Taiwo Ogunjobi, James Odeniran, Ganiyu Majekodunmi and Tade Azeez; Chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission Kweku Tandoh; DG, Lagos State Sports Commission Babatunde Bank-Anthony; Lagos FA members Dotun Coker, Mojeed Adegbindin, Wale Joseph and Liameed Gafaar; senior special assistants to Governor Ambode, Bolaji Yusuf and Adeyinka Adeboye; former Nigeria captains Mutiu Adepoju and Friday Ekpo; Channels TV’s Steve Judo and; leading lights of the Sports Editors Forum.
At the end, a cheque for the sum of N500,000 was handed over to the boys from Borno State, while Jeremiah Adekanbi (Baptist Boys, Osun); Akeem Bashiru (Emmanuel Anglican Nursery and Primary School, Ekiti); Mahmood Muyideen (LGEA Central School, Kwara) and; Israel Oke (X-Planter Primary School, Ikorodu) were handed a cheque of the sum of N150,000 each in scholarship.
Akinwunmi is hoping that some other States of the Federation can start a similar program that will give hope to intelligent but indigent children waiting to be discovered and at the same time offered an opportunity to combine education with their passion.
“If we have about 10 States doing something like this, we would never have to worry about getting players for the age –grade National Teams. All we would require is getting the right technical crew to teach them the basics and nurture them to become the stars of the future of our game.”