The FutbolNet Cup, a soccer competition, which was held from June 30 to July 3, is a game like no other.
The event’s eventual winners are not determined by the high number of goals but based on other considerations.
The eventual outcomes are determined through strict adherence to six core values associated with the event.
“It’s more of a minds game than physical prowess based six broad human values — commitment, respect, tolerance, teamwork, responsibility and effort,’’ Theirno Diack, the Executive Director of the Dakar-based OlympAfrica Foundation, organisers of FutbolNet Cup said.
According to him, it is based on that principle that the competition features a mix of boys and girls in matches.
When the events got underway at the Lome OlympAfrica Centre, on the outskirts of the city, there was not the usual eagerness to score many goals, rather emphasis was placed on adherence to the collective rules, democratically agreed on by participating players in the competition.
The competition took holds without referees to spot non adherence to rules but rather the responsibility on players to observe misapplication of rules and point them out for either points to be added or subtracted from cumulative points recorded by official who keep to the sidelines.
The officials only step in to moderate the post match conferences by the players to discuss the match and allot points.
For instance, if a goal is scored and the ball did not touch an opponent of both gender, the goal is disallowed.
Usually it is during such joint reviews of a match that an eventual winner is determined.
The questions to resolve also include: Were the teams fair at ensuring gender balance?; Did they largely keep to the core values as enunciated in the manual of the competition?; Have the teams kept to the rules?;
The players, prior to take off of the competition will at least adopt a minimum of two of the six core values, pre-established before the commencement of the event.
These and much other consideration must be adhered to be adjudged the winner of a given match. A winner of a match is not known until both teams have met at a post match to review a game and award points based on observation.
Emphasis is placed on communication by players from opposing team teams; issues are openly discussed and concessions are made after debates.
Ken Anugweje, a professor and a Sports Medicine specialist, from the University of Port Harcourt who was on a special invitation to assess the competition, said he was fascinated by the rules guiding the competition, especially because there are no referees, decisions are based on observations of the children and their reading of the game.
“The event helps in promoting the communication skills of the children, their internalising of the rules, elimination of tension and anxiety to cut corners.
“It promotes ethics and integrity and fairness in the children. It is amazing that they take prompt decisions,’’ noted Anugweje, the coordinator of the Port Harcourt-based Atletics High Performance Centre.
Alek Hannesian, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) consultant, in Lome to monitor the event, said in an interview with Echonewsng.com in the Togolese capital noted that this soccer tournament was one with a `difference’.
“It has its peculiarities. It is tournament of values. The kids are learning values through sports. The competition has provided them a platform to continue through this competition in acquiring those values and to prove it to their teammates.
“It is a concept that has proved to be successful here since it has been going on for years. The execution of this tournament is a positive one; they are learning, they are having fun and we the fans are enjoying ourselves too.’’
Ola Williams, a Ghanaian Youth Coordinator in the National Olympic Committee, who assisted in organisation of the FutbolNet Cup said: “this is closer to the core values of Olympism. The values emphasises participation rather than the concept of `win at all costs’.
The many fans that trooped out in their numbers to watch the matches enjoyed the tournament as they observed that desperation for victories are eliminated from the event.
The Director OlympAfrica Centre in Niger Republic, who acted as the General Technical Coordinator of the tournament, Dauda Adamu said his desires coming with his team, did not target victory.
He said that the competition has helped him to bring more young girls, for them to gain international exposures, stressing that the principle of the competition has helped some of his players who participated in previous tournaments to aim higher.
Adamu, a Swimming Coach added that two of swimmers were able to qualify for the last Rio Olympic Games, having imbibed the core values they learnt from taking part in previous FutbolNet Cup competition.
Diack notes that Adamu’s effort was praise-worthy because in a country, where girls are married off early, he had largely succeeded, where many others had failed.
Prior, to the just-concluded regional finals there were competitions hosted at various countries, accounting for not less than 41 tournaments featuring in total, no fewer than 90,000 players.
During the regional finals, the teams play gruelling preliminary leagues at the end of which four top teams with the highest points play a knockout for the semi-finals slots to determine the finalists.
He noted that the important aspect to the event was that sometimes it takes an after physical excersion in match situation to determine the winners of a competition.
Diack pointed out that for instance that the U-13 Nigerian team from Port Harcourt Centre and a Beninoise team U-16 that emerged as champions of the FutbolNet Cup won after the match.
The Nigerian team had tied goalless at the end of the regulation time.
It was at the end of the post match meeting that they were adjudged the winners, where it was established that they largely adhered to rules of the game.
They featured a young side while their Beninoise counterparts were made up of older players in their squad.
However, in the U-16 category, the Benin Republic team defeated their Nigerian counterparts from the Lagos Centre in a penalty situation, where gender balance in the scoring made their victory certain for the Benin Republic side.
Two girls in the Benin side scored their goals while two girls in the Nigerian side fluffed their goals.
The U-13 side from Niger Republic that had six girls rather than the others that came with four each in their team. They travelled 24 hours by road to be at the tournament.
The hosts, Togo won the fair play award in the U-16 category.
Chuks Agi, a Director from the Port Harcourt Centre of OlympAfrica, who led the team, told Echonewsng.com, correspondent in the Togolese capital to cover the event; that he was happy that his team won this time around.
“At two previous tournaments, we played the second fiddle by emerging the runners up. I praise the team for their doggedness.
“I am happy that my side featured two teams that firmly established integrity as they were within the prescribed ages.
“We did not cut corners and we raised the team based on the integrity and focus on the core values of the competition,’’ he said.
Echonewsng.com reports that core values of the tournament are embedded in six values — commitment, respect, tolerance, teamwork, responsibility and effort as contained in the competition manual.
The manual was produced by the partners of the project — the Barcelona Foundation, of the FC Barcelona of Spain.
According to Diack, the Executive Director OlympAfrica Foundation, the organisers of the event, the competition is aimed at inculcating the values in education, achievement of gender balance, integration, and mutual respect for rules of the game for both genders.
The event featured teams from five countries — Nigeria, Niger, Benin Republic, Sao Tome & Principe and hosts, Togo. Nigeria had two teams each from two centres — Port Harcourt and Lagos.
The OlympAfrica project draws funds from Olympic Solidarity and Barcelona Foundation that partnered to produce the competition manual with the underlying philosophy behind the football competition. ##