AS part of efforts to discover and promote football talents among its teeming youth population and create stars, the Ondo State government in partnership with Sheffield United, a United Kingdom-based soccer outfit, has started a youth league in Akure, the state capital.
The initiative, which is being packaged by the state through its Football Development Agency (ODSFA), a body saddled with facilitating soccer development, would involve 207 teams from all the 18 local councils of the state.
Apart from exposing the youths to global soccer practices, the youth competition would also produce players for state-owned teams like the state academy, the Rising Stars and the Sunshine Football clubs.
The state Governor Olusegun Mimiko at a ceremony to kick-start the tournament, said his administration was using sports to unleash the potentials of the youths towards productive ventures.
The governor who was represented by the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Bamiduro Dada, said government wants to engage the youths of the state with sporting activities that will take them away from the streets.
He said: “I am assuring you that the programme will be successful, we are hunting for talents and the best way is to start from the grassroots.
“We want to get our youths engaged with sporting activities, thereby employing them and reducing incidence of thuggery; when you develop the youths, you are also investing in the future of the state.”
Chairman of the tournament, Soji Bello, pledged that the league would be a benchmark event in West Africa, as talents that abound in the state would be discovered.
Also the Coordinator of the ODSFA Academy, Dapo Ajibade, said he was happy to be the driver of the vision of the academy and promised not to relent in his efforts to develop grassroots talents.
“As I am here now, over 200 teams have been registered for the league and about 9,000 youths will be participating, which is a great achievement for us,” he said.
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