Chairman, Delta State Sports Commission, Chief Tonobok Okowa (left) meets the official mascot at opening ceremony of the sixth Delta State Sports Festival, which opened at the Ozoro Polytechnic Stadium… yesterday.
All roads will lead to Ozoro Polytechnic Stadium on May 20 for the grand finale of this year’s Delta State Principal Cup competition.
It will mark the consummation of the vision of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to restore the heritage of the Principals Cup, a platform, which gave life to Nigerian football and empowered the youth to great career heights.
The revival process kicked off in March with local government preliminaries where the winners, 19 public and 6 private schools, emerged for the zonal qualifiers which took place from May 4th to 7th. The quarter and semi finals are billed for May 15th and 16th to set the stage for the grand finale on May 20.
The State Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Chiedu Ebie said: “The mission is for us to improve on schools sports, and one area we focused on is football, and the Principals Cup. Our focus is long term and our plan is that it will serve as a breeding ground for discovering young footballing talents bearing in mind that Delta State is known for its sporting prowess and achievements,” he said.
This resonates succinctly with the cry by veteran goalkeeper, David Aigbovo for the return of the competition. In the days of the old Bendel State, Aigbovo won the competition thrice, consecutively, with New Era College, Benin, went on to join the Flying Eagles in 1981 and the Super Eagles thereafter, also playing club football for Flash Flamingoes, Bendel Insurance and Shooting Stars of Ibadan with which he won the CAF Cup in 1992. He once told The Guardian that: “for our schools sports system to thrive once again, we have to go back to the basics and that means bringing back the culture of the Principals Cup”.
In clear professional approach to the task, Ebie and his team determined not to make it a burden on the state, by seeking partnership with the private sector, retaining the services of a sports marketing firm, Hideaplux Limited, and, together, secured the sponsorship and partnership of Zenith Bank by which the competition is now titled “Zenith Bank Delta Principals Cup”.
The rekindled experience of the Principals Cup brings back glorious memories of life in the old Midwest, later Bendel, and now Edo and Delta States. Memories of great footballers who effectively combined education and sports to become national heroes, with many of them called into the Bendel Academicals and then to the national teams right from their secondary schools.
Names like the Afejukus, Sam Okpodu, Ndubuisi Okosieme, Thompson Usiyen, Late Stephen Keshi, Paul Okoku, Bright Omokaro (10-10), Franklyn Howard, Austin Eguavoen, Humphrey Edobor, “Elastic” Friday Elahor, Clement Temile, Edema Fuludu, Late Osaro Obobaifor, the list is endless. They showed the greatness in youth and the huge potentials of schools sport.
No doubt, sports throws up new champions, but those who lived the tradition will be excited with the return of Hussey College, Warri, and Urhobo College, Effurun, to the Zenith Bank Delta Principals Cup. Those schools, alongside Sapele Technical College, Government College Ughelli, Ika Grammar School, St Patrick’s College, Asaba, Anglican Grammar School, Ubuluku, and others bore the flag of the Delta zone in contest against schools like New Era College, Western Boys High School, Edokpolor Grammar School, Eghosa Grammar School, Immaculate Conception College (ICC) and Edo College on the Benin axis.