‘National I-17 Cricket Championship will help blur gender, cultural lines’
Experts believe that training budding talents at their infant stage helps to build them into future international stars. The world over, catch them young programmes are designed to ensure that the youth master the rudiments of sports and develop special skills that aid athletes to future international success.
And so it was at the weekend when the leadership of the Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF), supported by renowned financial outfit, PWC, gathered over 300 school-age girls to feature in the regional finals of the second National Under-17 Cricket Championship across the country. Apart from the talent building and leadership skills the young talents were expected to acquire, the championship also set the tone for diversity even beyond the game.
According to the organisers, the aim of the championship is to use Cricket to push for inclusion and gender balance in the society. It is an effort that should be part of all expressions of our national life.
Head, Corporate Responsibility, Diversity and inclusion leader at PwC, Obioma Ubah, said: “Before the 300 girls that took part over the weekend were picked, we have had multiple number that show up across the 21 states of the country that entered female teams and now narrowed to 14 each that each states presented.’’
She argued that exposing the girl-child early to sports like Cricket helps blur cultural lines that exist between the genders and can foster teamwork, better contribution and exponential outcomes.
“We have seen the dedication and continual upward projection of the game of Cricket in the country in the last three years and I believe their activities align perfectly with our values as a corporate entity”.
Also speaking on the programme, NCF President, Prof. Yahaya Ukwenya, who has led a smooth season for the game despite the bumps that the COVID-19 has served social activities in the last 12 months, concurs.
Ukwenya led Nigeria to her first ever Cricket World Cup experience in January 2020, a feat, which is attributed to the focus on developing the game from the grassroots.
“Our qualifying for the first Cricket U-19 World Cup is on the back of events like this and we are very determined to keep turning the wheels of growth from here.
He said the PwC sponsored national Under-17 Championship has been positioned as one of the major events to test all the developmental efforts for the Federation in a given year.
For instance, according to Ukwenya, there are regional developmental officers, who are tasked monthly on some key performance index for states under their regions.
“We have Cricket project to schools, 9ja Kids Cricket and a couple of other innovative expressions of our Cricket Outreach projects that are tailored to different zones.
“These and more are supported through trainings, supply of requisite equipment and funding from the Federation, including some other dynamics that can be fully discussed. All these make the National Under-17 Cricket Championship one that is key for us.”
Among other things at the event, which kicked off at six different centres across the country (Oyo, Kaduna, FCT, Borno, Enugu and Rivers states) over the weekend is a score sheet of some sort and opportunity for the Federation to tweak flaws in their development plans.
But what is even more important is that the event has become a platform for the country to see and note exceptional Cricket talents that would help the country execute the next Under-19 engagements.
“Since 2019” Ukwenya continued, we have had a blistering record on the continent around our age grade teams and this event serves perfectly as a funnel for the next set of players that would be drafted to take on the gauntlet from where the World Cup team stopped.”
One other purpose that the event would serve especially for the female players is to consolidate on the effort to build a vibrant female national team and have a channel to recruit new players that would challenge the older players.
Endurance Ofem is the Chairman of the Organising Committee, and he posits that the event for the girls also helps to spike up interest in the growing national female league.
“Beyond the national team having options and giving these players a chance to feature, the new female national league will also allow them play competitive events week after week, strengthen their game and put them in different tournament conditions that would be helpful for their future”.
Ofem, a former national captain said that the PwC support for the National Under 17 Cricket Championship has been very pivotal to the game being able to reach more areas of the country.
“Obviously we have more states entering for the event this year than in the past and we are very confident of a more rounded developmental effort and much more impact on other areas of the game that we expect this to touch on.”
The boys’ regional qualification is set for the weekend of between January 22nd and 24th at the same venues where the girls’ teams set their stage last weekend across the country.
Ofem said that his team is expecting to plug all holes noted from the female weekend and hope to raise the bar for officiating and safety.
“We already have the boys entry outnumber the past weekend and we may also be having more fans come to watch at the ovals where the events are taking place.
“Our priority is to raise the awareness and compliance to COVID-19 protocols, keeping safe distance, provision and enforcement of face masks at the venues and making sure there are wash-points with soap and sanitisers. Our first event was approved and monitored by representatives from the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and was well commended across all centres for keeping and adhering to the safety rules and we would want to take that higher with more numbers in our hands for the boys” he said.
Officiating and age verification according to him are other key areas that emphasis has been placed on as the boys teams arrive.
“Although we have made this year’s edition a lot easier to be verified, we had players register online and upload verifiable documents as registration condition, which puts the pressure off men on ground to see through any age falsification attempt,” he added.
The national finals for the event are billed for the new turf wickets in Edo State for two weekends from January 28th to 31st, and February 4th to 7th, 2021 for the girls and boys respectively.
In all, the Nigeria Cricket Federation has set itself up to raise the bar for the game development through rights partnerships with Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and PwC Nigeria, talent development through the Under -17 National Cricket Championship that is on-going.
No comments yet