By Clarkson Ogo
Two former Nigeria Super Eagles players, Efe and Sam Sodje, have emphasized the need to support and encourage individuals who put in their hard-earned money to develop and promote grassroots football in Nigeria.
The brothers expressed this view recently in a chat with journalists ahead of the November 15 kick off date for this year’s edition of Felix Anirah Football Tournament (FAFT).
The elder Sodje, known in his playing days for his rugged style of play and his trademark bandana, said tournaments like the FAFT are needed not only to stoke the interest of youngsters but equally to ensure that there is a steady stream of players available for use by the country’s national teams.
The former Crew Alexander and Bury FC defender called on Nigerians to toe the path followed by Chief Felix Anirah by organizing similar tournaments.
Sodje, who noted that it is not easy putting in personal funds to develop grassroots football especially organising tournament with a total prize money of over N4.5million, said, “This tournament will be very good if well organized. Others especially those in the executive branch of government should emulate this Delta State House of Assembly member to help in development and promotion of the game.”
The younger Sodje, Sam, who played for Leeds Utd and Charlton Athletic FC both in England expressed gratitude to Chief Felix Anirah for his effort at encourage the growth of youth football as well uniting the ex-internationals and former players.
The Delta state-born player said great players who went on to play for Nigeria’s national teams were discovered at tournaments like the FAFT.
“I want express my gratitude to Chief Anirah for what he is doing. Engaging the youth especially the young footballers by hosting this competition, which I hear is an annual activity, is commendable. I am delighted because competitions like this are what brought most great international footballers like myself to get to where we are today.
“I was fortunate to hear Chief Anirah grant an interview a few days ago about the upcoming competition and I saw how passionate he was about youth football development. He is a massive football lover willing to put his money in sports development”, the younger Sodje said.
The former Leeds United player who said he was impressed by it all, said more influential individuals should emulate Chief Anirah’s intervention in grassroots football.
“I want to say thank you to him on behalf of all sports lovers especially the young talents who will emerge from this competition”.
He advised organizers of the tournament to ensure only genuine scouts and agents are allowed to pick players in order to enhance their careers.
Registration for this year’s edition of the tournament, which currently ongoing will run to October 31, while the draws will hold on November 7 in Sapele, Delta State.
The final of the tournament and a gala night thereafter will hold in December 15 in Sapele with the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa expected to be in attendance.
The Sodje brothers have indicated that they will be available for the events.