The annual Joe Udofia Unity Cup returns this weekend, with 15 village teams in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State set to battle for the top prize.
This year’s edition — officially named “Joe Udofia Unity Cup Season 4” — will kick off on Saturday 26 October, with the final holding on Boxing Day.
Last year’s winners, Inyang Isong, are among a list of participating teams that also includes Ikot Obio Okon, Ikot Usan, Ikot Antono, Ikot Edet, Awat Nkang, Use Abat, Ikot Odiong, Atan Aya, Ikot Amba, Ikot Akpan Atai, Ikot Udo Ibiono, Nkwa Ibiono, Ikot Akpan and Use Ikot Odiong.
Like previous editions, all matches will be played at St. Theresa’s Primary School, Use Abat, Ibiono Ibom.
According to the media director of the tournament, ace sportscaster George Essien, the tournament — sponsored by Vandrezzer Energy Services Limited — aims to unearth the next generation of football stars, with the best players selected for tryouts with Vandrezzer FC, a Nigeria National League (NNL) club owned by Vandrezzer Energy Services. Through this, he said, young talents are handed opportunities to play professional football.
In collaboration with foreign partners, the organizers also seek to facilitate the transfers of talented players discovered during the tournament to clubs across the world.
Inaugurated four years ago, the competition featured nine teams in its first two editions but was expanded to 15 teams last year — with six villages from Ibiaku joining nine Use Abat teams in the competition.
As is customary, all 15 participating teams will be fully kitted by Vandrezzer Energy Limited with branded jerseys, football boots and other sporting equipment to help them harness their potentials.
Last year’s final, which was attended by ex-Super Eagles captain Nwankwo Kanu, Nollywood star Ini Edo and other personalities, saw Inyang Isong claim the title as well as ₦2m in prize money after defeating Ikot Obio Okon 4-1 on penalties in the final after a goalless 90 minutes.
Runners-up Ikot Ibio Okon took home ₦1.5m, while third-place winners Ikot Amba pocketed ₦1m.
This year’s prize money is the same as last year’s, with a total of N4.5m up for grabs.
The first match will be preceded by a colorful opening ceremony beginning at 3pm. It will feature music and dance.
The opening ceremony will be attended by dignitaries, including ex-football stars, football administrators, captains of industry, as well as village heads in Ibiono Ibom.