Former Nigeria forward Victor Ikpeba believes Copa Coca-Cola is a powerful developmental platform for football in the country, lauding it great impact at the grassroots.
The 1997 African Player of the Year applauded the ex-internationals' engagement as guest celebrities and the sustained sponsorship of the nationwide football championship.
The 42-year-old is confident the competition will produced top stars like Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi among others and as well check the increasing incidents of age-cheat.
“We have to commend Copa Coca-Cola in the partnership with the school sports federation,” Ikpeba told Goal.
“It's a privilege. I've been involved in Copa Coca Cola for years now and great excitement of coming around once again to see how we could help develop these players.
“We know the important of football and education. We know the power of principal Cup those days and that of school sports in those days and I was part of it too.
“I want to commend Copa Coca Cola for bringing ex-internationals to be involved in this project- we've seen some already involved in other parts of the country - in Ibadan, Bauchi.
It is exciting and enjoyable to see these young boys showcasing their talents. I'm sure without football, I won't be here andbeing brought here is to be an inspiration to these children.
“This is an opportunity we can catch them young. I'm a member of the Nigeria Football Federation technical committee and I can see young talents of the age-bracket within 13, 14 years. It is a win-win situation for Nigeria.
“If we look at the history of Copa, a lot of players had their privilege of playing and even in the big footballing nations their young talents are still going to school. They have their training in the evening and football competitions in the weekends.
“We know that not everyone can make it through football but combining football and education is a very powerful development platform. It is helping to busy our young boys and will take them out of the negativity of life.
“We can see a lot of progress if we look back, we've been talking about age cheating and we must commend Coca Cola for being involved and making sure these students are truly in school.
“And for Coca Cola to be involved is a plus for football and all about development. If we look back, a lot of players have come out of Copa – Robert Lewandowski, Ronaldinho and [Wilfred] Ndidi and many others.
“And I believe lot of them can be produced here. We know government cannot do it alone, and for corporate brands can be involved at the grassroots football is welcoming.
“I think Coca Cola has been doing this for years and it is one of the biggest drinking brands in the world, we should be grateful. And for me coming from the football family, I’m very grateful to seeing what Coca Cola is doing.”