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Impact of GTBank Principals Cup on school enrolment in Lagos

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The Lagos State Principals Cup, re-christened Lagos GTBank Principals Cup, is an age-long competition among secondary schools in the state, aimed at discovering talent to represent the country in international football competitions. Those not lucky enough to make it to the international scene might be primed for local clubsides and eventually become icons to their teams’ supporters.

Some of the former internationals, who honed their skills and later played for the country include Henry Nwosu and the late Stephen Keshi (St. Finbarr’s College), Sunday Oliseh (Methodist Boys High School), Dosu Joseph (Igbobi College), Tarilla Okorowanta, Franklin Howard and Richard Owubokiri (St. Gregory’s College) until the competition became moribund.

Other great players that graced the competition are Paul Okoku, Raymond King (St. Finbarr’s College), Wakili Oyenuga and the Olukanni brothers (Segun and Femi), who went to C.M.S Grammar School.

In 2009, the bank, through its education-focused programme termed Sports Education Initiative, felt that schools filled with talented footballers in Lagos were waiting to be unearthed; so it revived the tournament.

The new sponsor, while taking up the funding of the tournament, had stated, “The value of sports as an aid to personal development cannot be over-emphasised. In line with this sports-loving organisation’s vision of raising role models for the society, as well as using sports as a tool to provoke academic excellence in secondary schools, the Principals Cup has thus provided the platform to create football stars who will become Nigeria’s ambassadors to the international community and participate in the discovery, career development and economic empowerment of local football talents.

“The phenomenon known as football has proven to be a tool for fostering camaraderie among youths. The Principals Cup, no doubt, has continued to identify local football talent at the grassroots level, as well as promote healthy rivalry.”However, as a result of a decline in the involvement of private schools in the tournament, the bank also realised that grassroots football growth could not be complete without every school in Lagos, private or public, taking part in the competition, especially those that dominated the Principals Cup ago since its inception in 1954. This birthed the Heritage Cup competition tagged ‘Masters Cup’ on February 21, 2012.

Later, the creation of a Super Cup tournament was designed to determine the champion of champions for each season of the two tournaments between the winner of the Principals Cup and Masters Cup in both the male and female categories. But the Super Cup later metamorphosed into a challenge between the winners of the Principals Cup in Lagos and Ogun states.

To further develop the talent discovered during the Principals Cup competitions in Lagos and Ogun, and the Masters Cup at the end of the competition, the sponsor also organised a players development programme known as Camp GTBank, where the players, who distinguished themselves in the boys’ and girls’ categories, are further given the privilege to hone their skills with topnotch coaches from Europe in tutorials on football basics that include formations, strategy, tactics, conditioning, instructions and physical exercises.

It is also where some former Nigerian internationals are assembled to mentor the talents unearthed from the grassroots school sports competition. These former internationals were to assist coaches like David Mark Penny of Fulham FC, a youth coach, who is in charge of the camp; Mark Ellis, the youth coach for Arsenal FC and Fulham FC, who had been involved in football growth for 18 years. Ellis had identified some of the top young English players such Ashley Cole, David Bentley and Jack Wilsher. The Nigerians were Peter Rufai, Ann Chiejine, Yisa Sofoluwe, Henry Nwosu, Victor Ikpeba, Waheed Akanni, Ajuma Ameh-Ottache, and Jolomi Atune among others that have been part of the Camp GTBank till Season Five of the camping development.

Speaking to The Guardian on the impact of the Principals Cup and others, the former Director Co-Curricular Services, Mrs. Babs Akinyeye, stated that the influence of the firm in grassroots football development had been tremendous, adding that the youth saw such opportunity as the stage offered by the bank to showcase their talents and would do anything to go back to school regardless of whether the education would be useful to them in the future or not.

“The impact of the Principals Cup, Master Cup, Super Cup and the Camp GTBank has been great. The first thing is, when we started the competition, the enrolment in schools suddenly jumped up. We had an increase in pupils enrolling in school due to the opportunity the Principals Cup offers. This was so because it was not possible to welcome those that are not students to be part of the competition.

“Now we have some of these students who are talented given the leverage to take part in the competition and are now with the U-13 U-16 and U-17 national teams,” she said, adding that the sponsor had also been impactful in the lives of the students who were considered to be among the best talents at every competition.”

“The sponsor always bring in some of the best coaches to train these talents noticed during the Camp GTBank at the end of every competition. They receive tutorials from coaches from top clubs from Europe for a week.

“For the prize money won by these schools, we ensure that the schools use it for what it is meant for. For instance, because we want everybody to benefit from the prize money, which is N1 million, some percentage is given to the students, the schools itself, the coaches, and even to the schools’ principals, who make efforts by spending their money to make sure that everything runs well during the competition. This is aside the souvenirs the students get from the sponsor,” she said.

Former Lagos State Football Association Chairman, Waheed Akanni, who lauded the Camp GTBank meant for the outstanding students after the competition, said the sponsor deserved commendation for the hope it brought to the youth from the grassroots.

“I have always been part of the camping programme myself for the exceptional players during the Principals Cup, Masters Cup, Super Cup since it started about 10 years ago. The sponsor of the programme has been a source of support to the youth, developing their talent by bringing coaches from Fulham, Chelsea, West Ham to impart in them with the necessary skills.

“We’ve also had local coaches like Augustine Eguavoen, Samson Siasia and Henry Nwosu who came around to mentor them in the camp. Even the late Stephen Keshi was also at the camp to develop the students for leadership.

“A lot of players that were exposed through the camping development were noticed and given opportunity to go for trials in Europe like the case of former Greensprings Schools student, Elvis Onyenze, who travelled out for trials in Europe sometime ago,” he stated.

While commenting on the bank’s initiative, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of GTBank, Segun Agbaje, said: “Given the amazing talents shortlisted for this programme and the quality of the coaches overseeing their development, I am confident that Principals Cup, Masters Cup will be a seedbed for the emergence of professional footballers, who will go on to have very successful careers. This goes to the heart of our sports education initiatives, which are aimed at actively engaging the youths through sports whilst identifying, nurturing and grooming young football talent.”


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