THE 6TH EDITION of Copa Coca-Cola tournament kicks off today in Gicumbi District under the theme “you give your socks for football now, football will give you more, everything for football”.
Launching the tournament yesterday at Bralirwa headquarters in Kicukiro, the Marketing Director Jan Van Velzen said that the 2014 Copa Coca-Cola will cement its dedication to its stakeholders by giving more.
“We want our young rising stars to reflect on their potential this year. The dedication and sacrifice they make in growing their football talent has been recognised by us. We want to move a step ahead and give back more to them,” said Velzen.
Velzen further added that giving more in this case will mean increasing matches, sending Copa heroes and local celebrities to visit players during their practice sessions at schools, as well as continuing the tradition of awarding cash prizes, medals and trophies.
Bralirwa’s Marketing Manager Martine Gatabazi said that this competition is aimed at identifying and promoting the talented young footballers to help them develop their gift.
“Copa Coca-Cola believes that the tournament is not only made up of the teams and their coaches but also the fans. Fans bring football to life; they are the heart-beat of the game. We want to connect with them both on ground, through tradition and digital media. We want to reward the fans in a fun way, recognising that they also give a lot to their teams,” Gatabazi said.
This year’s tournament will be open to 416 school teams from all districts of Rwanda having an opportunity to present both boys and girls to participate in the competition.
The competition which targets the youth grassroots football development will bring together 46 teams (30 boys` and 16 female teams) from across the country.
Florent Rwigema, Executive Secretary of the Rwanda School Sport Federation said the initiative is in line with the government policies to put children rights at the forefront.
“With Copa Coca-Cola, the children’s right to play is respected as it ensures their good health. This tournament is also paramount in a sense that it lays the foundation of our Rwanda U-17 Team and opens the gates of professional football career to our young footballers,” Rwigema added.
As the tournament kicks off today, subsequent games across the country are expected to follow in the course of the tournament from the preliminary round up to the final slated for May 26 and 27 respectively.
In Rwanda, Copa Coca-Cola has crafted football talents like Emery Bayisenge, Yannick Mukunzi and Cyubahiro Jacques now plying for APR FC and Rayon Sports respectively.
The recent 2013 stars Dominique Nshuti and Mustafa Nsengiyumva had a chance to go to South Africa and train with the best from all over the continent. Currently Nshuti plays for Isonga FC while Nsengiyumva features for Etincelles FC.
Over the years, bona fide professional stars have emerged from the tournament including Zambian national team goalkeeper Kennedy Mween and his teammates Nathan Sinkala and Stophila Sunzu.
Ugandan international defender Timothy Batabaire, Nigeria FC Porto midfielder Mikel Agu, Kenyan midfielder McDonald Mariga, Tanzanian striker Thomas Ulimwengu and South African duo of Mandla Masango and Happy Jele are among those who have emerged from this tournament.