2023 Delta State/Zenith Bank Principal’s Cup: We are creating a pathway for Nigerian youth – Pemu

Over 500 secondary schools participated in the 2023 Zenith Bank/Delta State Principal’s Cup. In the end, Umuaja Secondary School emerged as champions. Tony Pemu, CEO of Hideaplux Limited, who are the organizers of the competition, spoke with Sports Vanguard about the success of this year’s edition. He also spoke about the plan to revive the National Principal’s Cup. Read on.

delta principals cup

How would you rate this year’s Zenith Bank/Delta State Principal’s Cup?

We had a wonderful time during the Zenith Bank/Delta State Principal’s Cup final at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba. In the preliminaries, we sent coaches across the centers to monitor the players. The purpose was to scout outstanding talents. They did a good job of it, as quite several talents have been discovered. Over 120 talents were scouted by the coaches.

The next step is to organize trials when the players will be reduced to about half that number. We intend to open a football development camp. We will employ very good coaches to mentor them and see how they can develop, especially for those who want to take up football as a career. We will create a pathway for them and see how it goes. Some academies and clubs have already started approaching us for some of the talents we discovered.

Going forward, we had a fantastic final at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, where the government and our sponsors were present. We had a very wonderful final, which represented an equally wonderful edition made possible by a wonderful brand like Zenith Bank and the Delta State government.

Who were the eventual winners?

It was won by one school from Umuaja, a very remote community. Umuaja Secondary School in Ukwani Local Government. They defeated Government College Ugheli.2-0 in the final to emerge as champions.

delta principals cup champions

That must have been a big surprise.

Indeed. It was a surprise, as nobody saw them coming. There were several schools we had thought would get to the final but failed along the way. One of the schools is Gbogodo Secondary School in Okpe Local Government. All through the preliminaries, they were beating opponents 6-0, 5-0, and so on. Another such school was Essie College in Warri, which was a winner of Warri South Local Government, and many others like that. Urhobo College couldn’t qualify from their zone as well. We had quite a few big names that fell along the way.

Apart from winning the trophy, were there any financial attachments for the winners?

Yes. Usually, we give N1 million to the winners. The government donated an 18-seater bus to the school, and the players got N25,000 each for individual awards like Most Valuable Player, Highest Goal Scorer, and Best Goalkeeper. We have also increased the runner-up prize money from N500,000 to N750,000

and the third-place winner, who used to get N200,000, has now increased to N500,000, and we decided that the fourth-place winner should go home with something. They got N250,000. Anyone who played that day, both the third-place match and the final, went home with something.

What was the level of enthusiasm among schools in the state?

Maybe because of the attractive prize money or because we have decided to focus more on the players in terms of development and creating a pathway for them, the enthusiasm has drastically increased. Schools showed more interest in terms of funding and sponsoring their teams for the competition.

However, it also had its negative effects, as some schools became so desperate that they went to the extent of hiring mercenaries to help themselves.

But we stopped them, as we were able to up our game in terms of verification and discovered a number of them who tried to cheat to win. In one case, a school that went to hire players from another school crashed out of the competition in the zonal preliminaries. We disqualified them immediately. We also applied other mechanisms, like paying unscheduled visits to some schools unannounced. Through that, we discovered that some of the players were not on the ground at some schools.

Secondly, we collaborated with the Ministry of Education to ensure that every player registered by a school for the Principal’s Cup is actually a student of that school. As the competition gains more attraction and popularity, interest has heightened. We too are upping our game to ensure the credibility of the Principal’s Cup is protected.

delta principals cup team

You once spoke about going national. Are we going to see the next edition go national?

In 2021, we went national. You can see that we have quite a rich experience. We had a very successful edition of the National Principals Cup in collaboration with the Ministry of Sports. We went back to the drawing board and re-strategized. In 2024, we are coming back to relaunch the Principal’s Cup nationally. It is going to be rebranded and repackaged.

How were you able to accomplish this year’s edition without a hitch?

We have our systems and our management team. In the preliminaries, we had a collaboration with the Ministry of Education. The Chief Education Inspectors helped organize preliminaries at the zonal level. Every local government has what they call a sports officer; they are like the desk officers in the local governments. We shared a lot of information as we opened a WhatsApp group. We were able to have them come back and report to us the problems they were facing throughout, from registration to organizing the \ zonal preliminary.

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