More than 7000 athletes and 500 schools are set to battle for over 1000 medals and 32 school/team titles in the first edition of the Schools’ Athletics Championships, now renamed MTN CHAMPS, which will take centre stage across four locations: Benin, Uyo, Ibadan and Abuja.
A press conference was held on Wednesday, 4th October, 2023, at Nordic Hotel in Lagos, to unveil the championship, which secured telecommunications giant MTN as its title sponsor, with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and the Nigeria School Sport Federation (NSSF) also partnering with the organisers of the historic initiative, Making of Champions (MoC), to ensure a hitch-free competition.
Some of the dignitaries that attended the momentous event include MTN Acting GM, Consumer Marketing – Idowu Adesokan; Chief Corporate Services Officer – Tobechukwu Okigbo; Chief Marketing Officer – Adia Sowho, Senior Manager, Brands, Sponsorship & Media – Friday Okuwe, Senior Manager, Consumer Marketing – Debo Agu, AFN President Chief Tonobok Okowa, AFN Technical Director Mr Samuel Onikeku, MoC Chairman Engr. Olu Akani, NSSF Vice President Emmanuel Ebong, amongst others.
While giving her address, Sowho noted that MTN Is proud to be associated with the vision of MTN CHAMPS as it really sits at the heart of what the brand stands for.
She said: “MTN is committed to Nigeria’s young people, and what we’re trying to do is power the dreams of these young people and provide them with the platform and technology that they need to take on the world. MTN CHAMPS now joins the group of initiatives we have, and we hope to provide our young athletes with the platform to shine as they learn life’s valuable skills: we hope that this initiative contributes to their overall well being and success in life.
“The 10 best athletes discovered from CHAMPS will join the MoC Academy and will have the benefit of a structured training schedule, which teaches them the importance of discipline, time management and valuable skills that they will be able to bring in sports and in life. Also, MTN is committed to developmental sports not just for the accomplishment of individual goals, but for national aspirations as well, the discipline, the rigour and the passion is profitable for nation building which our beloved Nigeria needs.”
AFN President Okowa harped on the need to produce a pool of young athletes who will be positioned to take over from their older counterparts, a gap MTN CHAMPS is poised to bridge.
He said: “I am the main beneficiary of what is happening here today. When the older ones are fading out, what happens if you do not have the younger ones coming up? So, grassroots sports development is the key to success. At the National Youth Games (NYG), the age bracket is between 12 to 15, but for those within ages 15 to 20, there are no proper competitions, and MoC have just rescued us from that challenge through the MTN CHAMPS.
“I want to say thank you to MTN for the sponsorship, and thank you to MoC. With these competitions, these athletes will look forward to these competitions and will train towards them, because sometimes we lose the athletes between 15 and 18 because no good competitions to keep them going. We at the AFN will give you every support you need.”
On his part, Akani highlighted the immediate and imminent rewards of staging MTN CHAMPS and appreciated the efforts of all the bodies backing the initiative.
He said: “I am pleased that we now have MTN identifying with our efforts to take Track & Field to lofty heights in Nigeria. This is indeed a monumental turning point in our country’s history in school sports and in Athletics. I have the conviction that MTN CHAMPS will unearth and foster athletics talents across the country and is poised to becoming the primary platform for identifying and nurturing promising athletes who can represent Nigeria in future international competitions.
“Indeed, MTN CHAMPS is a cumulation of years of the sacrifice and investment that has been made in the last decade by MoC to bring Nigerian athletics to where it needs to be, and now together with MTN, we can collectively uphold the vision and scale it to the highest standard imaginable that will ensure a resurgence of Nigeria’s bold footprint in global athletics.”
While unveiling the format for MTN CHAMPS, MoC’s Country Manager Deji Ogeyingbo revealed that the competition would be spread across three age brackets: the Cadets (U-14), Youth (U-17) and Juniors (U-20), with 32 team titles to be won across the four locations, eight in each as MTN CHAMPS will run a team-based competition with team titles and trophies awarded to the best Boys’ & Girls’ Schools/Teams in each age category.
Also, the Roster Athletics Competition Management App, which MoC is bringing to Nigeria for the first time, will be used to organise all aspects of the Championships, from online registration to publishing live all results and team scoring.