12 boys and girls Under-16 teams contest week-long event; Tournament also included training for young referees and reporters; Grand Popo hosts event showcasing link between football, education and society.
Mouyibath Aweba donned the colours of his school and prepared to play in a significant event in Benin’s football history. The best 12 teams in the country were gathered in Grand Popo having progress through departmental qualification stages to contest an inaugural national tournament and the young player was in no doubt as to the implications of the event.
“This competition will bring me many good things – things that may help my region in its development,” he said. “It will make my future better. It may help me make something of myself.”
It wasn’t only players having the chance to hone their skills through the seven-day tournament in Benin’s south-west, jointly organised by FIFA, the Beninese Football Association (FEBEFOOT) and the Benin Ministry of Sport. Young referees and reporters also underwent training sessions before putting their skills into practice once the action got underway.
Match officials given the chance to shine
Secondine Dassoukpo had gone through written, practical and physical tests at her district level in Benin and was chosen to represent the Zou region in the tournament as a match referee. Like the players, referees were selected from the different departments nationwide. Ahead of the tournament, she was one of many to benefit from the experience and training of Beninese referee Bonaventure Coffi Codjia, who himself officiated at the FIFA World Cup™ in both 2002 and 2006.
“The instructors taught me how to improve my positioning on the pitch and how to move efficiently and that’s great,” the young match official told FIFA.com. “I am so happy [to be part of the tournament]: there was a selection process and it was not easy. My ambition is to become an international referee. We all have our passions and for me, it’s football and refereeing above anything else.”
Reporters showcasing the best of the action
Young journalists had some guidance in reporting the action and content creation as well, led by French Football Federation (FFF) Press Officer, Laura Goutry.
“We did several modules and the idea was to explain the job of a press secretary and to do some media training in real-life situations,” Goutry explained. “They all participated well and were curious to learn and they will now put everything into practice with the coaches and players in this schools championship.”
What they said
Kenny Jean-Marie Chief of Member Associations, FIFA, “FIFA’s vision is to make football truly global and for that, we need to be everywhere. So, an operation like this one with the support of the Beninese government and President [Patrice] Talon is important because it allows us to reach young people whilst they are still in school. It will promote education, culture and exchanges together in this mixed environment.”
Véron Mosengo-Omba Secretary General, CAF, “It is important for the Confederation of African Football to support this initiative: it is in Africa and it is of interest to the whole continent. President [Patrice] Motsepe wants to expand the competition to make it continent-wide. Young people who go to school need to find a place to play.”
Oswald Homeky Benin Minister for Sports, “I would like to express our delight today as we launch this important event which is not only a major event for Benin – our country – but also for Africa and the world of football. [This] is the start of a great journey, which will definitely see new talents blossom in our country.”