Former Nigerian internationals and football icons have commended the MTN Football Scholars initiative as a veritable platform for talent discovery and development.
The MTN Football Scholars is a youth oriented football talent hunt initiative aimed at discovering budding talents in Nigerian football, focusing on boys between the ages of 14 and 17 years old. This year’s edition, the fifth in the series, saw the beneficiaries of the scheme taking on select universities across the country in a series of novelty matches.
Ex-Nigerian international and Sports administrator, Segun Odegbami who was in attendance as the Scholars engaged the University of Lagos team in the final match of the tour, described the program as an avenue that will brighten the future of Nigerian football.
He said: “When we look at this model of discovering footballing talents, I can say that the future is very bright in Nigerian football. The best part of this initiative is that corporate Nigeria will look at what MTN is doing and try to emulate them. They have been to the US and back, and you can see the tremendous improvement they have made. I see my boys for example; four of them in this team. They look so big and matured and yet these are still 17 years old players.”
In the same vein, ex-Green Eagles captain and an ambassador of the project, Henry Nwosu, expressed delight at the development of the players who have returned from a football cum education training in the United States of America on the platform of the initiative, while also commending MTN.
He said, “The progress of the players is amazing and they are doing very well. If we were encouraged like this during my time, the sky would have done better. MTN has really done well with this program and I urge other corporate organizations to emulate them”
Legendary football icon and one-time Nigeria’s safe hands, Joe Erico who is the coach of the scholars program since it started in 2011, spoke brilliantly about his involvement with the initiative and noted its impact on Nigerian football.
“I have been involved in this program since its inception. The good thing about it is the joy you derive from it as it gives the kids room to be educated and alongside their talent and that is key.” He said.
In a four match series, the scholars lost to UniAbuja, won the UNEC team, played a draw against FUTA and signed out with a victory over Unilag Warlords.
The Universities’ teams were handsomely rewarded as the Most Valuable players selected went home with a scholarship of 250,000 naira and a Samsung Smartphone each. Yakub Yahaya, Joseph Okorie, Salami Ismail, and Owolabi Ifedunor all emerged the Most Valuable Players from UniAbuja, UNEC, FUTA and Unilag teams respectively.
There were also lots of gift items and freebies like smartphones, airtime, T-shirts and goodie bags for the spectators who thronged the match venues as hip-hop sensation; Iyanya who toured with the team, capped proceedings with scintillating performances.