By Victor Graham
As the maiden edition of the U-17 Niger Delta Peace Cup Football Competition kicks off, the organizers have warned Coordinators of the nine Niger Delta states, to ensure all participating players are seventeen years or below.
Organising Secretary of the Tournament and Secretary of the Grassroot Sports Federation, (GRASOF), South South Zone, Coach Ada Gwegwe, gave the warning in a statement in Yenagoa, on Tuesday.
He said the essence of the competition is to discover talents and raise the next generation of players, and so, the aim must not be defeated by fielding older players, as the organisers will not hesitate to disqualify teams that engage in age cheat.
“First of all let me commend the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, for partnering with us, to put up this competition.
“This is purely grassroot football, and we want it to live up to expectation, because its already high. We the organisers will not tolerate teams registering any player older than seventeen (17) years, so we are calling on all the Coordinators of the Niger Dleta States, to abide by the rules, or risk disqualification from the tournament”.
While condemning age cheat and its negative impact on Nigerian football over the years, stressed the need to discover young talents and groom them for both National assignment, and their professional careers.
“The Grassroot Sports Federation is passionate about wiping age cheat from our football system, because it has done more harm that good. Most of our legends we still celebrate today were scouted at young age.
“If this competition continues yearly as we hope, Nigerians will witness its impact, because it will become an avenue to produce players for our lower National cadre teams and even for academies. So this competition must be encouraged in its vision of ensuring all the participating teams use players within the stipulated age. It will benefit the Country immensely”.
The preliminary stages of the U-17 Niger Delta Peace Cup competition, sponsored by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has commenced across the nine Niger Delta states, where two teams will emerge, before they proceed to Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital on the 15th of next month, for the finals.