The 2013 edition of Africa’s premier youth football tournament, COPA Coca-Cola, has officially been launched today at the City Stadium.
The tournament which transitions from U-17s to U-15s will see teens set their sights on becoming Africa’s next generation of football heroes as it kicks off in more than 20 African countries.
“The move to U-15 is aimed at harnessing and exposing talent from an earlier age thus giving players the opportunity to be picked up by local football academies and clubs,“ said Rocky Findley, Coca-Cola Kenya Country Manager. “Furthermore, it will allow our COPA kids to gain skills and experience from an earlier age creating better, more rounded players,” he added.
The tournament is being activated in partnership with Football Kenya Federation (FKF).
Like seasons gone past, this year’s tournament will be open to school and community teams with each FKF branch presenting six boys and four girls’ teams to take part in the games.
“The teams will compete in the branch league where they will play one-legged round robin matches. The top two teams will advance to the inter-branch league for yet another round robin matchup, and winners from this level will advance to the national finals,” said Gerald Chege, COPA Coca-Cola coordinator and Michezo Ichezwe Africa Director.
Unlike last year where outstanding individual players were scouted from each level, teams will progress as a cohesive unit in this year’s edition. “The best teams will play all through the tournament to the international camp. We want to keep that sense of cohesiveness to ensure our team will be a force to reckon with when the tournament progresses to the international stages,” added Gerald.
“Prizes up for grabs at the finals include first place prizes for both the boys and girls teams of Ksh. 500,000 each, second place prizes Ksh. 200,000 each and third place prizes for both girls’ and boys’ teams of Ksh.100, 000 each,” revealed Rocky.
COPA Coca-Cola is the longest running youth football tournament on the continent providing international exposure and producing bona fide heroes.
This year’s tournament follows a successful campaign last season where the tournament was activated in over 20 markets in Africa with 134 players from Sub-Sahara Africa selected for a two-week international boot camp in Pretoria, South Africa.
The Kenyan contingent of 16 players had an above par performance as they emerged fourth overall and beat teams like Nigeria and Uganda. Two of the team’s players, Haron Nyakha and Garissa-born Sadam Abdulahi were named in the COPA Africa dream team as they added their names to the illustrious and long list of heroes who have emerged from the tournament.
Some of the renowned heroes that started in COPA Coca-Cola and have made it big in football include Zambia international goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene and his teammates Nathan Sinkala and Stophila Sunzu, Uganda international defender Timothy Batabaire, Nigeria and FC Porto youngster Mikel Agu, Kenya’s McDonald Mariga, Tanzania striker Thomas Ulimwengu and South Africa duo Mandla Masango and Happy Jele among others.
“COPA Coca-Cola is the place where everyone is a hero; our players, the fans, coaches, families and the community at large,” noted Rocky. “The top players from this year’s tournament will proceed to the international camp which shall be communicated in due course. As in 2012, our partnership with Chelsea FC will see coaches from the club train players at the camp,” he added.
Since its launch in Kenya over 6 years ago, COPA Coca-Cola has created a huge platform for a large number of young footballers to realize their dream of becoming football heroes not only within their communities and countries but also beyond the borders.
The games will be played every weekend with the National finals scheduled to take place in Nairobi in August.