By Patrick Omorodion
When one of Nigeriaâ€™s greatest footballers, Chief Olusegun Patrick Odegbami (MON) sauntered into the premises of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) about 12 years ago, he didnâ€™t know that the project he was building with the company was going to grow into a world brand.
That project, taking football back to the schools, excited the policy makers at the oil conglomerate at the time and together with Chief Odegbami, they have carried on for 11 years and by March this year, the 12th edition shall be decided at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, a venue the action Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola also uses to propagate his own belief of grass-root sports development through the schools.
That was the spirit behind Chief Odegbamiâ€™s pet project, The International Sports Academy, which he set up in Wasimi, Ogun State. What he was preaching through Shell in schools across Nigeria, he practicalised in his sports school. That school, recently won for him, an award in London.
Just when the SPDC was getting disillusioned about the NNPC/Shell Cup project, owing mostly to the lingering crisis in its operational base, the Niger Delta, which has affected its revenue, FIFA, through its president, Joseph Sepp Blatter, joined in the campaign for football and Education working for the upliftment of the poor children around the world.
With FIFA joining, Shellâ€™s interest was kind of rekindled and it dusted the files for the All Nigeria Secondary Schools Football Championship, tagged, NNPC/Shell Cup. At short notice, it called on Worldwide Sports, Chief Odegbamiâ€™s outfit who are its consultants on the project.
Worldwide Sports Managing Director, Shola Akinwale, who oversees the running of the project handled by the Nigeria School Sports Federation (NSSF) rallied all the stakeholders, the media inclusive, to a briefing to usher in the 2010 edition of the competition in Lagos penultimate week. At the briefing, SPDCâ€™s Head of PR, Brand and Strategy, Mrs. Yomi Adeleye expressed the joy of the company in seeing that FIFA was thinking in the same line with them, that sports and education must go hand in hand thus: â€œAs the 2010 NNPC/Shell Cup competition commences, we want to re-state the theme of the tournament: That education and sports may go hand in hand. We are pleased that this is also the thinking at the global level.
At the draws for the 2010 World Cup in Cape Town,(South Africa), the FIFA president, Sepp Blatter stressed that the first Africa-hosted World Cup would be used to campaign for provision of education for every child in the world. The FIFA president spoke of the â€˜1 Goal- Education for Allâ€™ campaign as a vehicle to draw attention to the global plight of 75 million children, over 10 million of whom are in Nigeria.â€
Mrs Adeleye therefore stressed that â€œAs the 12th edition of the championship takes off, we are proud to renew our commitment to the promotion of education and football.â€ She then announced with glee to the admiration of the schools officials present the increment of the prize money for the winners, totalling N8.2 million to be shared thus: N3.5m for the 1st team, N2.3m for the second, N1.3m for the 3rd and N1.1m for the 4th.
To crown the beautiful day, Chief Odegbami, when pressed to speak on the coming NNPC/Shell Cup, said the project was a worthy one and announced that he has been appointed the Ambassador of the 1 Goal-Education for All project in Nigeria by the organisers.
There was a thunderous applause from all present in the hall in praise of the man whose life, since after his playing days, has been hinged on how to take football to the next level. But has he been given the opportunity by the cabal running the game in the country to spread the campaign beyond the NNPC/Shell Cup and the International Sports Academy? Only posterity can judge.