From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
No fewer than 14 Nigerian women clubsides and their two foreign counterparts have confirmed availability to storm Abuja to participate in the third edition of the 2021 Flying Officer’s Cup tournament.
Organisers of the football competition further revealed that they received over 20 applications from various reputable women clubs within and outside Nigeria, emphasising that only 16 have been chosen to participate.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ratel Sports Foundation, Barr. Paul Edeh, who made disclosure during a media briefing in Abuja explained that from the registered teams, the two clubs are from Ghana and Benin Republic.
Barr. Edeh further announced that this year’s competition has been repackaged with increased mouth-watering prize money of over N1 million for the winners and other aspects of its organisation with the welfare of participating teams a top priority.
He also revealed that part of the unique package of the 2021 Flying officer’s Cup, a first ever women pre-season tournament, named in honour of late Nigeria Air Force (NAF) officer Tolulope Arotile, is to award some deserving outstanding Nigerians.
Late Arotile is the first female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigeria Military who died in an accident at the Nigeria Airforce base Kaduna on July 14, 2020.
The Ratels sports CEO equally said the football event has received highest endorsement from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) with a special commendation letter from the management of Nigeria Women Football League (NWPL).
Assuring that the match officials will be carefully selected across the country through the Nigeria Referees Association, he noted: “This year’s event has many firsts. First, the price money has been increased from what it used to be and we are going to be having four teams winning the ultimate price of the first, second, third and fourth places, and as usual we will be providing jerseys for all the teams that are participating.
“The other first is that we have 16 teams that have already indicated interest to participate which is double of what we had last year. Last year, we had eight teams that participated but this year, we have 16 teams already. The most interesting part with this year’s edition is that we have two teams from the African nations of Ghana and Benin Republic that have also indicated interest to participate.
“In addition to this, we have also introduced a new leg which is the award segment of the Flying Officer Cup. We have decided to pick some well meaning Nigerians that have contributed immersely to the development of female football as well as the girl child to give them awards, and the most interesting part is that we are giving about eight posthumous award to deserving Nigerians who have contributed to the growth of this nation particularly to unite us as a people and in the coming days the names would be unveiled.
“We also have award categories for the best female footballer in Nigeria. We are also going to be awarding footballers in Nigeria and deserving teams and particularly teams that have continued to hold their ground regardless the fact that they have not had sufficient funding of their teams.
“We want to showcase the best of the FCT, we want to showcase the best of Nigeria, that is the reason, we are producing our trophy not from China not from Belgium but from Nigeria. The trophy would be hand made from one of the best sculpture we have in Benin City and that trophy when it is ready will account for the fact that we are not only promoting our girls but we are also promoting our culture and what we have to do in support of sport, particularly female football,” he said.
Speaking specifically on the prize money, Barr. Ede, said: “The winner of the competition will get N1 million, second price goes for N500, 000, third is N300, 000 while the fourth placed team will receive N200, 000… this is excluding branded jerseys.
“For those that are participating from outside Nigeria, we are ready to double their price money if they finish at any of the positions. This is to also give them certain level of leverage to win the competition because they have to travel longer distance to be able to make it.”
Barr. Ede, a seasoned football administrator and philanthropist, called on spirited Nigerians and corporate bodies to rally round and support the competition.
“We also expect that the private sector will come all out and indeed support what we are doing to contribute our little quota to the development of the game of football and Ratels Sports Foundation is committed to moving not just female football forward but moving football and sport in general,” he said.
General Manager of the tournament, Dr. (Mrs) Victoria Nlemigbo, who gave details on how the tournament format has been designed, said top women clubs in the country and others in the second tier will be taking part.
Some of the top clubs include perenial NWPL winners Rivers Angel, Bayelsa Queens, Edo Queens, Nasarawa Amazons, Delta Queens, Champions of 2021 NWFL Championship Naija Ratels (now promoted to the Women Premier League).
The tournament is scheduled to kick off on October 10, 2021 at three prominent playing turfs in Abuja namely – Goal project, Area 3 play ground and Aguiyi Ironsi Military cantonment stadium.