COPA Lagos: Rise of the beach soccer event that is more than just sport
In the build-up to the grand opening of the Copa Lagos, Solomon Fowowe profiles the remarkable rise of the event that successfully marries Sport, Music, Fashion, Parties and Hospitality to deliver unprecedented levels of entertainment.
When Kinetic Sports first rolled out the idea of Copa Lagos in 2011, the first ever Beach soccer event in sub-Saharan Africa, it was met with skepticism from some quarters, understandably; an untapped and unpopular sport in Beach soccer would not have garnered enough interests and eyes. Many had not exactly warmed up to the idea of trudging in loose sand barefooted and kicking a ball, preferring the regular fix of the European football Leagues where balls were played on grass pitches and with boots. The Super Sand Eagles had enjoyed relative success finishing as runners up in the 2011 edition of the CAF Beach Soccer Championship held in June and getting to the quarter-finals of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2011 where they lost to Brazil after extra time.
Top of the mind awareness and an excellent build up to the event ensured people took notice of the event smartly placed on the calendar, a week before Christmas when folks are sure to take time out to relax. The further allure of a wholesome experience including fashion shows, parties with top artistes performing piqued a lot of interests. Copa Lagos was a rousing success treating the over 12,000 visitors to a large slice of entertainment from the heady flicks, impudent tricks and acrobatic finishes on the golden sands of the Eko Atlantic by the participating countries which included Nigeria, Brazil, South Africa and England. The ecstatic feel was climaxed when the Super Sand Eagles avenged the World Cup loss in the finals against Brazil to win the maiden edition of the COPA Lagos.
The COPA Lagos returned in 2012 and to good effect as the Super Sand Eagles bested Lebanon, Portugal and Argentina in the three day event that saw the seating capacity of the spectator stand increased. Ex-Internationals, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Victor Ikpeba, Taribo West and Mutiu Adepoju were part of the VIP guests that graced the event that had grown in global appeal. The stands were packed full, the atmosphere electric and fraught with bubbly excitement.
The 2012 edition saw 500 new part time jobs and 30 full time jobs provided and continued on the path of excellently driving tourism. Popular pop stars, D’banj, Wizkid and Yemi Alade amongst others were part of the spectacle as the performed at the music concert that capped off the event.
The 2013 edition was equally excellent as Lebanon made a return to face the Super Sand Eagles, Germany and Senegal but it was in 2014 that Kinetic sports took things u a couple of notches. The organisers announced expanded tournament that was to feature a club challenge that had FC Barcelona play against local clubs, Enyimba, Stationery Stores and the Pepsi Football Academy. Juan Cusco, CEO of FIFA Beach Soccer Worldwide lucidly stated that the event was part of the Top five Global annual events on the Beach Soccer Worldwide calendar.
The event was beamed on television to 250 million households globally with its focus on delivering top quality entertainment where Soccer meets lifestyle. Over 18000 spectators would attest. Unfortunately, the Super Sand Eagles lost their title to the Ivory Coast who were unbeaten in their three matches played. Barcelona returned in 2015 to play against Shooting Stars, Kano Pillars and Pepsi Football Academy. England and Lebanon made returns after hiatuses but both teams could not stop Ivory Coast as they romped to the title undefeated.
Copa Lagos 2016 was a one-day event because of the CAF Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations tournament that was forthcoming. But it didn’t add a damper to the pizzazz of the event that was now a firm feature on the calendar of fun-loving frolickers. An 11-goal thriller between the Switzerland Beach soccer team and the Super Sand Eagles, a food fair and the All-night open-air music concert afterwards served up a riveting and memorable experience. 2016 was a year of milestones for Samson Adamu, CEO of Kinetic sports as he could check off his list the target of getting Nigeria to host the African Beach Soccer Cup of Nations, the continent’s qualifier for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017.
But how do you improve on such outstanding successes from previous years?
You scout, select and train talents to build the first Lagos Beach soccer side to compete with European Champions Arsenal Beach Soccer team, Pepsi Football Academy and Kebbi Beach soccer team. Gidi Sharks, the locally assembled side were hand-picked from various parts of Lagos by Angelo Schirinzi, a FIFA instructor and are set to further punctuate the socio-economic effect of Copa Lagos as the players are being handed a lifetime opportunity.
In its seventh installment, the Copa Lagos is certain to break every possible ceiling as the stars— female celebrities inclusive— align for the delivery of unprecedented levels of entertainment!