By Clarkson Ogo
The National Principals’ Cup will be expanded beyond its traditional football base and will now feature events in Athletics, Table Tennis, Boxing and Badminton, Sports Minister Sunday Dare has revealed.
Dare disclosed the change to the structure and scope of the Principals’ Cup at an event held to unveil the logo and brand ambassadors for the competition in Lagos on Monday.
The move, Dare said, is part of the ministry’s effort to revamp the tournament and is fundamental to the Sports Ministry’s “mandate of expanding the catchment areas of our grassroots development efforts in the country”.
Ex-national team legends Daniel Amokachi and Joseph Dosu were unveiled as ambassadors along side track legend Mary Onyali.
Established in the sixties, the Principals’ Cup, a traditionally football tournament for secondary schools, where state champions compete for the national title, has birthed a number of notable names who have gone on to achieve greatness in football.
Stephen Keshi, Daniel Amokachi, Henry Nwosu, Sunday Oliseh, Joseph Dosu and Jonathan Akpoborie are some of the notable names to have come through the competition who all went on to have successful football careers including playing and winning laurels for Nigeria.
By expanding the number of events in the Principals’ Cup, the ministry hopes to kick start a self-sustaining process that will identify and nurture promising talents and produce future household names and make Nigeria a powerhouse in other sports like has happened in football in the past.
“As the honourable Minister of Youth and Sports Development, I have a firm belief that the only road to sustained podium performances by our sportsmen and women is a return to the basics that was the bane of our sports development from time past,” Dare said.
The minister acknowledged the current moribund state of the Principals’ Cup at the national level, a situation which he said Monday’s event is the first step in making right.
While praising the efforts of various states which have maintained the tournament over the years, Dare revealed the ministry will “beginning this year”, “harmonise all the Principal Competitions across the states with finals at a predetermined location”.
The minister revealed his vision for the competition involves a strong and equal emphasis on the education of the athletes in the mould of the “Academicals” programme in the ’60s and ’70s which anchored sports development efforts on education.
“Back then,” Dare said, “the Academicals competitions influenced the development of the various sports in secondary schools.”
The minister hinted that plans were in the offing to take the competition international with tournaments to be staged against Ghanaian schools in the manner of the Academicals.