By Cletus Opukeme
It was a press gathering in Warri, where the date for the Ijaw/Itsekeri Peace and unity cup competition, 2019, was officially announced, by Ambassador Comrade Mulade Sheriff, National coordinator, Center For Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ
The competition which is also known as the *Comrade Mulade Sheriff Peace and Unity Cup,” started in 2017, it was profoundly set up as a critical forum to demonstrate and promote the oneness of these ethnic groups with a long history of conflicts and rivalry.
He noted that his reasons to use the round leather game, which is recognized world wide to forester Peace in his Ijaw/Itsekiri regions, came from his knowledge of Football as an instrument that builds tranquility, cohesion, love and unity.
According to Mulade, “It is the exemplifying nature of football as a strong tool of oneness, and an abridger of ethnic conflicts, that brought about the birth of the Ijaw/Itsekiri Peace and unity cup competition.”
The football competition is also part of the efforts he puts in place to harness football talents in Delta State.
Sheriff, who is a member of the Delta State Football Association Board, ( DFAB ), says the 2nd edition of the annual Comrade Mulade Sheriff Peace and Unity Cup has been scheduled for the 16th to 30th of November 2019, also aimed at discovering young talents in the riverine communities of the State.
Comrade Mulade, in a statement in Warri said the competition will focus on building peaceful coexistence and promoting unity among Ijaw, Itsekiri and Ilaje people in Warri and its environs. He said attention will also be on young players with exceptional talents.
According to him, “the communities will have to pick younger players to represent them because African Grassroots Football Development team will be on ground to select the best players.” He said they should therefore not go out of their communities to hire players, so that gifted youths in the riverine areas can be discovered.
He warned against winning at all costs which has badly destroyed football at the local and national levels in Nigeria.
He said this year’s competition would hold in two venues to give a sense of belonging to the three tribes, with one venue each in Itsekiri and Ijaw towns to further cement the relationship among them. He noted that this year’s event would be played on a knockout basis featuring teams from Ijaw, Itsekiri and Ileja communities within Warri and its environs.
Meanwhile, Comrade Sheriff has appealed to well-meaning individuals and corporate organizations to partner with the Center for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, in the sponsorship of the IJAW/ ITSEKIRI PEACE & UNITY CUP, to help promote peaceful coexistence, build bridges of unity, attract development and create enabling environment for Deltans, particularly multi-national oil and gas companies operating within the area.
He noted that companies and individuals partnering in this great drive to uplift the youths through football will be welcomed. In Sheriff’s statement, “Partnership will make the competition bigger and more laudable,” noting that it would be glorious on their parts to discover and build talents which will be epochal in communities where they do business.