The 5th edition of Moses Orkuma Unity Cup football competition is set to commence today at the famous JS Tarka stadium in Gboko. In this chat with Trust Sports, the founder and sponsor of the youth tournament, Moses Terese Orkuma, said the competition is his own way of thanking God for the blessings in his illustrious career which started in the sandy streets of Gboko town. The star player of UMM Salal in Qatar also spoke on how the tournament is helping youths in Benue State to achieve their dream of playing professional football in and outside Nigeria.
Why do you sponsor the annual Moses Orkuma Unity Cup football competition?
My reason for sponsoring this annual football tournament is to first and foremost thank God almighty for his enormous blessings. God has been so kind to me so I feel that one of the ways I can show my appreciation is to give something back to society. Apart from showing gratitude to God, this tournament provides young players with the opportunity to be scouted by renowned European and African scouts. It may interest you to know that like many other African players, I started in the streets of Gboko from where I have risen to the top. From Gboko, I went on to play for the Flying Eagles of Nigeria at the World Cup level so I believe there are still young talented players who are waiting to be discovered and nurtured.
What are you doing to ensure that this tournament is not a flash in the pan?
As you can see, this is the fifth edition. Organising a competition of this magnitude is capital intensive but if I can sustain it for five years, that is to say I am willing to make all the necessary sacrifices to keep it going. It is not easy but with God and other well wishers, I hope to sustain this pet project of mine.
Have you discovered talented players who are now playing professional football?
Like I said earlier, one of the main objectives of the tournament is to identify and develop talented players. Over the years, the Moses Orkuma Unity Cup has unearthed top talents like Samuel Atavti who plays for Metlaoui in Tunisia and Victor Abata with Stade Tunisien who are now playing professional football abroad. Some of the players discovered are playing for clubs in the Nigerian professional football league. When we discover players, they are given all the necessary support to achieve their dreams of playing professional football.
How do you select teams that compete in the tournament?
The truth is that due to cash prizes and other incentives, this tournament has become so attractive that every year we struggle to prune down the number of clubs that want to participate in it. For instance, for this year’s edition, we had nearly 50 teams that indicated interest but due to logistics and time constraints, the committee sat and selected only 16 teams which are going to take part in the 2022 edition.
What are some of the criteria that are used in selecting the teams?
This is a grassroots competition but we look out for teams that are well organised and have the calibre of players that we can present to our visiting scouts. And one other thing I wish to stress is that one of the cardinal objectives of this tournament is to sustain the existing unity among our people. As much as we want teams to win, they are encouraged to demonstrate love and peace in their relationship with others. So, we are using the power of football to breed unity and peaceful co-existence. Therefore, apart from quality players, we give consideration to teams that will help us preach the message of unity. This is why the tournament is called ‘Moses Orkum Unity Cup’.
To what extent has the tournament helped in promoting peace in your state?
Since the competition started in 2017, it has always been staged in a peaceful and convivial atmosphere. There have never been issues of hooliganism or threat to security. You see, when you want peace, you don’t compromise fair play. Those in charge of organising the matches are men of proven integrity so they give every participating team a level playing field. I am sure that each year we end this tournament in peace, we succeed in sending messages of peace and unity across the state.
Since you are not based in Nigeria, how do you coordinate organisers of the tournament to meet set objectives?
For every edition, a formidable Main Organising Committee (MOC) is constituted to handle the planning and day to day running of the competition. What I do is to supervise what they are doing. We are in a digital age so following up on what they are doing is not a problem. Most members of the committee have been with me since the inception of the competition and are fully aware of what is expected of them. So, I don’t have to be deeply involved in organising the tournament for it to be hitch-free. I want to use this opportunity to appreciate everyone who has continuously shared in my vision to take our talented youths off the streets.
What are the prizes on offer in this year’s tournament?
Every year, we do our best to ensure that apart from the trophy for the overall winners, we give out cash prizes to the winners, runners up and third place teams. Apart from that, we also give individual awards to Best Player of the tournament, Highest Goal Scorer, Best Goalkeeper, Most Disciplined team etc. All these are meant to encourage the participating teams and their players to put in their best. I think what the teams earn by taking part in the tournament is far above the cash prizes. The most important thing is that we reward the teams and give players the much needed platform to be scouted by well respected football agents.
What are you doing to attract corporate sponsorship for this tournament?
What is unknown to many is that few organisations and individuals had indicated interest in coming over to support us but I am not in a hurry to get too many people involved. For now, I am the one funding the tournament from my earnings as a football player. Maybe in the future, we might open the door for others to come in with their support.
What is that special thing you are planning for the finals of this year’s tournament?
All things being equal, we are working towards having in attendance some of the best football players that have come out of Benue State. We would make provision for the participating teams to listen to words of advice from some of the legends. It will be nice for the present generation to listen to the legends’ stories and learn from their experiences. And before the finals, Friends of Moses Orkuma will have the opportunity to play a novelty match against All Stars. It will be fun-filled.