NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6- Plans are on to organize an Africa Copa Camp that will see winning teams from all round the continent gather in one central location for a training program as well as a ‘African Cup’ tournament, Coca-Cola Senior Franchise Brand Manager Rodney Nzioka has told Capital Sport.
In an exclusive interview with Capital Sport, Nzioka says just as has been the tradition in years before, the beverage company will look to ensure the talents showcased in the Under-16 tournaments all across the continents is developed and improved.
“We are working with partners across the continent to develop a Copa Africa camp because as you know there are multiple countries with Copa Coca-Cola. We want to have a world cup of sorts because we have seen a lot of talent especially in the Kenyan tournament and we would want to develop it,” Nzioka said.
In previous years, there have been Copa camps organized in South Africa and at one point there was a partnership with coaches from English premier League side Chelsea FC who came down and helped train the young lads and their coaches.
Meanwhile, Nzioka says the tournament celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this year has seen tremendous success and believes there will be more in the coming years.
St. Anthony’s Boys from Kitale won this year’s competition after beating St. peters Boys from Mumias 3-1 on penalties in the final in Eldoret last week.
Biggest among the highlight players to have come through the tournament is Harambee Stars striker Michael Olunga who starred for Upper Hill High School before making the top tier moves to Thika United, Tusker FC and Gor Mahia.
Olunga currently plies his trade in the Chinese top tier with Guizhou Zhicheng having had his first pro stint in Sweden with Djugardens and last season played in the Spanish La Liga with FC Girona.
“The 10 years have been a learning and growing experience for us. The reason we got into Copa was because we wanted to engage the youth on a platform they could connect with and for the youth that is either music or football,” Nzioka explained.
“Copa has grown year in year out and the reason we went for the Under-16 is because that is the age where youth discover their talent and we wanted to play a part in nurturing it and opening the doors for them,” he added.
Previously, the company used to run the tournament on its own but since 2016, they have partnered with the Kenya Secondary School Sports Association (KSSSA) and the tournament has been made part of the school games calendar.
“The reason we partnered with KSSSA is we wanted to increase the scale of Copa and with schools it allows us to touch all secondary schools in Kenya. Also, they provide a great logistical and marketing support for Coca-Cola so it makes it easier,” added Nzioka.
“I would give a 12 (On a scale of 1-10)! It has been a successful endeavor with the company and there are a lot of superstars that played their first organized game through Copa, not only players but coaches as well, we develop the sport all round,” further added the Marketing boss.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola signed a three-year partnership with KSSA that will see them sponsor the entire Term 2A National School Games to the tune of Sh21.5mn per year, taking over from Brookside who were erstwhile sponsors of the games.
The partnership kicked off this year with the School Games held in Eldoret where the company were headline sponsors for the Copa U16 tourney, U19, racquet games, volleyball, netball, rugby, decathlon, heptathlon and cross country.