By Victor Nwegede

Research has shown that there is no friendlier and busier place in the local community than a football club, where it is often the hub of activity. Whether it is football training sessions, match days, or special events, the football club is a place for its players, their friends and their family to come together. We have come up with a few ways that grassroots football benefits everyone, not only for the football clubs themselves, but for the wider surrounding community.

Inevitably, by encouraging people to get involved in grassroots football, a healthier lifestyle is promoted through exercising and getting outdoors. Not only is the health of the football players maintained, but the health of those supporting the grassroots football too. For example, adults who are volunteering to train the football teams, as well as run the behind-the-scenes of the club, are encouraged to maintain an active lifestyle too.

Obviously, having grassroots football in the community will encourage new players to improve their football skills and to have fun. This will help to develop the local talent and confidence of players, regardless of where each individual player is from. As a result, grassroots football helps to promote diversity and it reduces the likelihood of discrimination, sexism and racism. Beyond technical football skills, grassroots football can teach players – young and old – about the importance of friendship, camaraderie and teamwork. Not only do younger players develop skills, but adults leading the grassroots football are developing their coaching, fundraising and researching skills too, as they ensure that grassroots football is kept alive.

Keeping grassroots football alive in your town means that you will need funding from the local community, whether they have connections to the players in the football club or not. Getting everyone involved, beyond football, is not always easy. However, hosting events at the football club can be an excellent way to encourage participation and donations from the wider community. You can do this in the form of fairs, concerts and comedy nights!

Think about how you can also encourage the growth of grassroots football beyond your own town, by organising football tournaments with other football teams in different areas near you. To show the importance of everyone’s contribution, and to encourage them to keep grassroots football alive, you should consider how you will reward each player. The simplest and most common way to reward players is to give out sports trophies, with first, second and third place awards. If you browse the collection on, you will be able to see these awards which can be personalized for each player being awarded. They also have a whole host of other prizes and rewards, like trophy cups, medals and even fridge magnets that can be personalized and tailored to your football club with trophy engraving. However, you could also award prizes to the best players or to players who have had the best effort, with opportunities for them to develop their football skills with a one-on-one coaching session with a professional footballer.

If you have not already realized how important grassroots football is to your local community, you hopefully have now. Whether you are lucky enough to have a football club in your town or not, you now have a whole host of reasons why you need to start, or protect, grassroots football in your community.

Against the backdrops, on Monday 28th December 2020, the Federated Ekebeligwe-Ishieke Youth Association, FEYA, Abakaliki branch under the Chairmanhip of Mr. Goodwin Nwibo Mgbabor swung into action to encourage sports development in the hinterland by flagging off mini-football tournament tagged ‘FEYA Unity Cup.’

The football unity cup which was actively participated and contended by the eight zones of the Ekebeligwe Ishieke in Ebonyi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State including Ozu-aturu, Azu-oge, Ime-enyim, Oma-Ekebe, Ali-oma, Ndunvuta, Ndu-Odeh and Ndunjoku was quite commendable.

But the expectation remains high in consideration of the roles played by a tournament of this type to boost football skills and widened sports development at the grassroot levels, knowing fully well that the gains can never be overemphasized.

This according to the Youth Leader of Peoples Democratic Party in Ebonyi State, Barr. Obinna Iteshi came as an inspiration in two months ago when the leadership of FEYA, Abakaliki branch gathered in the state, and he single-handedly suggested the idea which was unanimously adopted.

Having seen the tournament as a paramount project to build unity and progress within the community and beyond, Barr. Iteshi donated a trophy with a football and promised to redeem the unity cup with the sum of fifty thousand Naira (N50,000).

Indeed, the unity cup tournament has come to passed with many talents harvested during the football competition which Ndu-Odeh finally won the trophy, while Oma-Ekebe came second and Ozu-aturu, third.

The three best groups and other high players from other zones were rewarded handsomely on Friday 8th January 2021 after the final competition, with immense atmosphere of love, unity and expressions of joy and optimism for better outing in subsequent time recorded.
Barr. Obinna Iteshi in interview with journalists had argued that some stakeholders do not know the importance of football sports especially when it regards youth wings.

He said the stakeholders who witnessed what happened during the tournament should understand that it is an exercise with a full demonstration of joy to harness unity and hunt for a talented individuals in footballing, for further training to compete favourably in the sports world in the future.

“It is an apple opportunity to discover the hidden talents in sports of our young ones in the village, which is languishing. The stakeholders have seen by themselves. The have watched and seen the best players compared to what they see in the developed cities. They saw we have talented individuals that can as well demonstrate such skills of those people whose names are heard all over the world as footballers. I believe from what happened today, they will have a rethink of supporting them to improve their skills,” Iteshi stated.

He added: “We know government has a key role to play in sports development at the community level. In Ebonyi State, precisely, each government that came on board normally has its priorities. I will say that the present government is trying but not perfectly well in terms of sports. No one can say they are not doing well completely. The government has its own priorities. Dave Umahi as the Governor of Ebonyi State focuses on infrastructural development as his own priority, the flyovers, concrete-pavement based roads, but in the area of sports, his government has not scored up to seventy (70) per cent.”

On his part, the Chairman of FEYA Abakaliki town branch, Mr. Godwin Nwibo Mgbabor, said that Ekebeligwe Ishieke village, has a lot of youths but no much avenue to come and reason together to achieve a common goal.
According to Mgbabor, after much consultations and deliberations by the youths under his watch, the group found out that sports development is one of the areas where youths mingle together and achieve a particular goal with a sound understanding.

He said: “We see people watching Chelsea, Arsenal and other football clubs on television in a very pleasantry way, such is also vital that the grassroot people come together in an open field like ours to watch our young ones playing football as a way of entertaining ourselves, building skills, promoting talents and enhancing unity in our area. That’s why we tagged this mini-tournament, FEYA Unity Cup.”

The Chairman FEYA Abakaliki branch equally observed that there has been an expectation of many villages to produce good footballers that can feature in international football tournament from the state, and stressed, it is a plan his people will not be left out.

He noted that the villages that produced persons of Renado, Messi, Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, and many other celebrities in the football world have connections that can pave way for their children’s success worldwide.

“In Ekebeligwe Ishieke, we have young stars doing well in football. So, we have the aim that this will form a talent hunt at the same time, to identify those young ones who can make our people proud in the future. From this tournament, we select the best players and group them for subsequent training and engagement for sports academic programme. All the youths of Ekebeligwe Ishieke should come in and participate in this tournament. I assured them, that apart from the award of prizes, we are going to give to the winner of the different zones (Ogbees); we must rejoice for we have alot of achievements including unity of purpose, understanding minds, one love, and the talent-hunt campaign, in which we can identify people who can aspire for their careers in football,” Mgbabor hinted.

Also, the National Secretary of FEYA, Prince Theophilus Emeka Akputa expressed joy that his zone, Ndu-Odeh eventually won the hot-contested trophy.

Akputa described the sports festival as a welcome development, saying that those who participated in the tournament should be given a serious support by the community to improve their skills in advanced sports training institutions.

Meanwhile, the Chairman, Organizing Committee, Prince Michael Iteshi, has emphasized on what motivated the community to organize the tournament which according to him, demanded individuals to look inwardly and outwardly, to see football sports as an integral game that unites the whole world today.

“We want to align our own community to the global world, so that our community will be beneficiary of whatever comes from sports. It is not only that, the idea of this tournament is to unite the community as well. This type of tournament equally brings progress and love to one another.

“We have a plan to connect the key stakeholders in sports to ensure that this dream wouldn’t end up a village tournament. Though we just started, but the big picture is still there. We are going to higher level despite that we are yet to get all the apparatus to actualize our goal but in the subsequent one, anything that pertains sports will be on ground,” Chairman Organising Committee assured.

It could be recalled that the Senior Special Assistant to Ebonyi State Governor on Youths and Sports Development, Chief Frank Onwe has said the the state government would on this January kick off grassroots sports activities to harness the talents of the youths.

Onwe said that, between February 14 and 28, 2021, Ebonyi will be in Benin for the national sports festival, while grassroot sports starts by January following the programme of UBEC brought into the state, where the youths at the grassroot levels will be organizing their activities.

He stated that the era of non-participation in a sporting activities has gone, as he expressed optimism that the programme would help to produce more celebrities like Jeje Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo and rest of other respected players in the football world.

He noted that the state government is building an Olympic stadium to encourage Ebonyi youths to venture into sports, saying, “all areas of sports are there, but most importantly, we are going into grassroots drive to harness the talents that can represent us both national and international levels.”

This in no doubt showed that the FEYA Unity Cup is in tandem to the talent-hunt for grassroot sports development in Ebonyi State and other communities should follow suite.