By Francis Ajuonuma, Lagos
Nigerians would be treated to the best of grassroots football as the 17th edition of the annual Bishop Mike Okonkwo Football Championship kicks-off on May 18 at National Institute for Sports (NIS) pitch, National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.
Sixty-four male and eight female teams have registered to compete for laurels at the championship which will be played on knockout bases with each winner progressing into the next round.
The Main Organising Committee (MOC) Chairman, Deacon Malachy Ndubuzor, who disclosed this at a seminar and draw ceremony held at The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) Headquarters, Lagos at the weekend, noted that the round of 64 matches will be decided on home and away format, while the round of 32 will be decided on one meeting.
He explained that the provision of free medical tests on blood pressure and purse of the players and officials at the seminar and draw ceremony was to ensure that the players and managers are medically fit to compete.
Deacon Ndubuzor, who also reaffirmed that the championship was designed to empower the youths and make them discover their potentials to become future football superstars, urged the participating teams to play by the rules of the game and shun acts of indiscipline as any team who flaunts the rule will be punished.
“The competition is about to kick off and as usual we’ll always bring something new which begins to unfold with the kick-off. However, the most important thing is that all the 72 teams made up of 64 male teams and 8 female teams are all ready and we’re also ready for them.
“Discipline is the most important of it all. We don’t want to bring out players that don’t understand what it means to play according to the rules of the game, that’s why each year we put together rules and regulations guiding the competition and this has helped us in ensuring that discipline is maintained and anybody who dares to disobey our rules gets the marching order.
“We’ve had situations where we suspend teams and they’re not allowed to register the next year; we’re going to keep to these standards.
“This year’s competition will be its’ 17th edition and we’ve decided to provide medical test on blood pressure and purse for all the teams to ensure that the players and their managers are fit to compete.
“It’s also important for teams to know that we mean business in the championship. There are no favourite teams, every team must fight for the title,” Deacon Ndubuzor added, while assuring that teams qualify into the round of 32 in the men’s event will be given set of jerseys each just as the women’s semi-finalists.