The Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium is set to be the centre of attention ahead of the inaugural edition of MTN CHAMPS, which takes off on Thursday, October 12th, with nearly 1000 athletes from 80 schools/teams expected to be in attendance.
At the press conference held on Wednesday at the Stadium to herald the three-day competition, Chairman of the Edo State Sports Commission, Yussuf Alli, stated Benin’s readiness to host the first leg of MTN CHAMPS.
Some of the dignitaries present at the event include Oluseye Odunsi, MTN’s Senior Manager, Sales and Trade Distribution (West); Njide Ken-Odogwu, Manager, Sponsorships MTN; Alli who is the Nigerian Record holder in the Long Jump: Taldang Tanimu, Assistant Secretary, Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN); Deji Ogeyingbo, Country Manager, Making of Champions, and Nationwide Meet Director of MTN CHAMPS and Olympic medallist – Deji Aliu.
In his welcome address, Alli thanked MTN for throwing their weight behind the competition, which is set to unearth future champions for Nigeria.
He said: “On behalf of the Edo State government, I must thank you all for coming to Benin, and I welcome you to our stadium, one of the finest in the country, and with one of the fastest tracks too. When I heard about this initiative, I was happy, because this is what we’ve been looking for, to partner with anything that has to do with schools.
“Having 7000 athletes participate in this programme nationwide in huge, and I will appeal that a database is kept of all participants in order to curb age-cheating. I’m looking forward to the MTN Academy. MTN have one of the best networks in this country so I’m sure the academy will be one of the best. I don’t want MTN to leave Athletics and focus on football. We have a lot of football academies in Nigeria, so please, stick with Athletics – to run, jump and throw.”
In his opening speech, Odunsi pointed out the motivation behind MTN’s sponsorship of the historic championship which will be unveiled across four cities, including Uyo, Ibadan and Abuja.
He said: “MTN Nigeria decided to foster brand loyalty by sponsoring the MTN School Championships also known as MTN CHAMPS. This is the first of its kind, starting with Benin, and we’re going to three other locations – Uyo, Ibadan and Abuja. MTN CHAMPS is an initiative to drive educational development among our youth and also to foster a to-do spirit of sports as well.
“The outcome of this competition is to bring out future champions who will participate in the Olympics, World Championships and other events across the world. The top 10 athletes from this programme will join the MTN Academy where they will be trained and educated, and also be presented with the opportunity of scholarships both from Jamaica and the US. It’s a privilege partnering with you on this programme.”
MoC’s Head Coach and Nationwide Meet Director for MTN CHAMPS, Deji Aliu appreciated MTN’s support in providing a lifeline for up-and-coming talent in the country.
He said: “I want to say thank you to MTN Nigeria for being the backbone of this championship. This is going to give a lot of kids a platform to showcase their God-given talent. I also want to use the same opportunity to say thank you to one of Nigeria’s best athletes and Chairman of Edo State Sports Commission for the support. I can assure you all that this is going to be a joyful ride.
“One of the structures that has been put in place to curb age cheating, is the introduction of three different age categories (Cadet, Youth & Junior). This provides the kids with more alternatives to compete, as opposed to having only one age group, which the athletes would all struggle to compete under. MoC is known for quality; we’ve done it before and we are going to do it better with the backing of MTN. We’ve been able to produce national champions in three years, and now with MTN coming in, we’re going to do ten times better than before.”
A total of 1768 event entries from 968 athletes were received from 80 schools/teams. The Junior boys’ and girls’ 1500m and Junior girls’ 400m hurdles have been removed from the schedule due to insufficient entries. Download: