NAIROBI, Kenya, February 20 – Coca-Cola East & Central Africa will spend Sh 39 million to organize this year’s COPA Coca-Cola youth soccer tournament.Two hundred and fifty six teams drawn from all 8 provinces will compete in this year’s edition which presents a huge raise from last 40 teams that competed in 2008.
The Country’s Coke Marketing Manager Pamela Mutua said the company had decided to take the event to the next level.
“Previously we only included schools but we want to take the tournament to the next level and involve the entire country as well as the schools. Through this platform, Coca-Cola seeks to develop youth talent in soccer and promote active and healthy lifestyles among this population,” she said.
The Kenya Premier League will help manage the tournament and provide FIFA accredited referees, coaches and talent scouts. KPL spokesman Gerald Chege said they will be very strict in ensuring that no overage players take part.
“Players will have to produce a birth certificate, immunization card or baptism card as proof of their age. Failure to do that will see them disqualified,” said Chege
The tourney will begin with playoffs to shortlist teams that will make it to the regional competition, with 16 teams qualifying per region. The teams will then play three rounds at the regional level to get one team.
The winning team will represent the region in the finals to be held in Nairobi between the 24th April and 2nd May, 2009.
The team that wins the finals will travel to South Africa for an International Soccer Camp to undergo world-class training and coaching.
They will also have a chance to play in the International COPA Coca-Cola (ICCC) tournament to be held in South Africa in 2010. Additionally, they will participate in the Confederations Cup as ball-boys and spectators.
In 2008, Tanzania – which represented Africa in the 2008 ICCC in Brazil along with Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya – emerged the overall winner.
Ms. Mutua said Coca-Cola has a rich heritage of supporting sports having sponsored the Olympic Games since 1928 and the FIFA World Cup from 1930. She described COPA Cola-Cola as a national youth football tournament that seeks to support the development of grassroots youth talent.
Started in Mexico in 1968, COPA Coca-Cola is also held in South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Uganda, Angola, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.