There’s no doubt that Nigeria as a sports loving nation is blessed with an array of talents who live in every nook and cranny of the country. Notwithstanding this repertoire of gifted young men and women, the recurring decimal that has stunted the growth of Nigeria and deprived it from being a world giant in sports, has been the inability to discover these budding talents from wherever they may be.
It is no secret that soccer remains an abiding passion for Nigeria and Nigerians. When it comes to sports, the contact game has been considered as one of the greatest unifying platforms, which is used to harmonise the country’s dichotomies. With the setting up of different football academies, all over the country to fish out soccer stars, standards have been compromised. It has become an uphill task to get the desire results accordingly.
Meanwhile, in the streets abound rare gems and football stars in the making. This is evident in many Nigerian accomplished footballers who were discovered on the streets. Popular names like former Head Coach of the Super Eagles, Samson Siasia, Emmanuel Amuneke, Jonathan Akpoborie, goal-king, late Rashidi Yekini, Haruna Lukmon, Brown Ideye, Taribo West, are a few of those who started from the streets and made it into the country’s national teams, through hard work, dedication and sheer talent.
Lagos State, noted for its cosmopolitan status and being the melting-point of various Nigerian identities, the state rightly becomes a home for budding football talents who dominate its countless streets. Consolidating on these opportunities, the administration of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), the Executive Governor of Lagos State, came up with an idea to get the streets together in a battle of soccer artistry which crystallised into a football tournament. Hence, the Lagos Street Soccer Championship. A project which has over the years, enjoyed the corporate sponsorship of the largest telecommunications company in Nigeria and Africa, MTN.
Going to its sixth consecutive season this year, the Lagos State Ministry of Sports has teamed up with the brand to deliver the MTN Lagos Street Soccer competition. The partnership has also gone ahead to establish MTN Lagos Street Soccer Championship as the premier non-professional football competition in Lagos, Nigeria and the entire West Africa. In addition to the existing categories, this sixth edition is initiating a new developmental group tagged: “U-15” junior category for male players, which is in line with the determination of the Ministries of Youth, Sports and Social Development and Education to develop school sports, in the state.
This new innovation is based on the philosophy of “catch them young”, a veritable platform for the discovery of new generation of players and promotion of academic excellence. To many soccer analysts and pundits, the initiative is on the threshold of revitalising age-group competition, not only in empowering and making the youngsters realising their dreams, but also setting a formidable platform for them to hit the global stage. In this, MTN has continued to restate its brand ideology of enriching lives.