With the selection of 30 successful candidates for the final camping stage in the football reality show powered by the Oceanic Bank International Plc, Austin Okocha has expressed hope that the Talent Hunt project will be a veritable platform to discover talented footballers that the nation will rely on for glory in the nearest future.
The euphoria that greeted the football reality TV show, the Oceanic Football Talent Hunt with Jay Jay Okocha was not unexpected. Both the young and old were very enthusiastic when the 2009 edition ofÂ football reality show was launched and Okocha unveiled as the new face. The choice of Okocha, observers said, was most ideal, given the segment of Nigerian population (youths) being targeted.
When the Oceanic Bank International Plc launched the season 2 of the project, which is an integral part of the bankâ€™s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) services aimed at harnessing raw talents that abound in the most popular game in Nigeria and developing human capital, many of the youths see the development as another rare life opportunity to actualize lifelong ambition of being professional footballers. This, no doubt, accounted for the overwhelming acceptance of the project by all and therefore the rush for the competitionâ€™s
scratch cards then.
Five months down the lane, the impressive turn out and the number of talents picked showed that the programme could not have come at a better time in the history of the nationâ€™s football when there is a yawning gap between the need and availability of young skillful
The abundance of raw skills was a surprise to Okocha who admitted that he never knew that skillful players abound at the grassrootsâ€™ level while the national team lacks good players.
At the zonal trials the players who were tested on various football skills displayed raw talents, skills and enthusiasm to the admiration of the coaching crew which included, former internationals, Waheed Akanni and Friday Elahor.
Each player got a unique opportunity to prove that he was worth going to the final camping stage where the best of the nationâ€™s future football heroes will gather to slug it out. Two hundred players were selected from each of the zones for regional screening that held in three cities of Abuja, Benin and Ibadan. Colour was added to the regional screening with the presence of past national players like Rashidi Yekini, Ike Shorunmu and Mutiu Adepoju, whose presence further motivated the young players.
At the end of the day, ten players emerged from each of regional screening, to make the 30 that are billed to go into camp and slug it out with one another.
Okocha who was happy at the smooth running of the programme commended Oceanic Bank for giving him the opportunity to contribute to the development of football in the country. He said the talent hunt offers the opportunity which he and his other colleagues didnâ€™t get while climbing up the football stardom ladder.
According to him, the uniqueness of the Oceanic Football Talent Hunt lies in the fact that apart from grooming the players in the right skills in football, they are also to be assessed on their character.
As the selected playersÂ prepare for the 30-camping, Okocha said the talent hunt will be a turning point in the Nigerian football, saying â€œmy hope and expectation is to see some of them in the near future and when their stories are being told, they will say, he was discovered in the Oceanic Football Talent Huntâ€.
From the response so far, it appears it is not only Okocha that is expectant, most Nigerians do, looking forward not only to who will be the eventual 15 winning players but how they will make the difference in the world of football.
The journey to soccer stardom may have begun for the footballers as camping begins on Tuesday, October 6 and by the first week in November, the final 15 will emerge and would be unveiled at a ceremony to mark the close of the programme for the year.Â At the end of the camp in Lagos, each of the 15 finalists will receive N1m and a brand new car with the Most Valuable Player (MVP) going home with a brand new SUV and N1m star prize.
During the 30-day camping period, some former internationals would visit the camp to give the boys pep talks. Some of the ex-players include Tarila Okorowanta, Bright Omokaro, Yisa Sofoluwe, Dosu Joseph, Emeka Ezeogu, Friday Ekpo, Taribo West etc.