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2300 Athletes, 105 Schools & 79 Junior/Senior Teams set for MTN CHAMPS Season 2 Grand Final in Calabar!

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The stage is set for an epic showdown as 2,300 athletes gear up to compete in the Grand Final of the highly anticipated MTN CHAMPS Season 2. The event will be held from 30th April to 3rd May, 2024, at the U.J Esuene Stadium in Calabar, Cross River State.

A press conference was held in the state capital on Monday, 29th April, to herald the highly anticipated event, and had in attendance Commissioner for Sports Development, Cross River State – Hon. Agnes Atsu; Director of Administration, Ministry of Education, Cross River State – Mr Augustine Odey (representing the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Senator Stephen Odey); Special Assistant to the Governor on Sports Development – Hon. Ekpenyong Ekanem; MTN’s Chief Marketing Officer – Adia Sowho; MTN’s General Manager, Brand and Communications, Marketing Division – Emamoke Ogoro; and Chief Information Officer, MTN Nigeria – Shoyinka Shodunke.

Others in attendance were Senior Manager, Brands, Media and Sponsorship, MTN Nigeria – Friday Okuwe; MTN’S General Manager, Regional Operations East Region, Sales and Distribution – Callima Inino; MTN’s Sponsorship Manager – Njide Ken-Odogwu; Permanent Secretary, Cross River State Ministry of Sports Development – Mr. Samuel Egbala; Managing Director, Cross River State Tourism Bureau – Mr Ojoi Ekpenyong; Vice-President of the Nigeria School Sports Federation (NSSF) – Pastor Emmanuel Ebong, and MoC Founder – Bambo Akani.

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18 out of the 70 MVPs (Most Valuable Performers) selected across the first three locations of MTN CHAMPS Season 2 (Asaba, Ibadan and Jos), and sponsored for the Calabar Grand Final, also attended the event.

Honourable Agnes Atsu, in her welcome address, thanked the organizers of MTN CHAMPS, and expressed her delight at Calabar hosting MTN CHAMPS Season 2 Grand Final.

She said: “We have one of the best facilities in this country for Track and field. There’s no reason why such an event should not be held in Calabar. I want to promise you that the Cross River State Government is giving you all the support. We promise you a very serene environment, we promise you a hitch free competition, we promise that the facilities are there for you, and we hope to do much more than this with you. The Government of Cross River State too is open for collaboration, partnership and anything else.”

Mr Augustine Odey, representing the Honourable Commissioner for Education, reiterated the Ministry of Education’s strong backing for the MTN CHAMPS Grand Final.

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“From the Ministry of Education, we appreciate all that MTN has been doing, and they are still doing for us. On MTN CHAMPS, I want to assure you that as a ministry, we have mobilized all of our students for this event. From what we heard, you have asked for about 10 buses, but we assure you that we are going to go beyond that to ensure that this competition runs smoothly from beginning to end. We are not going to let anything remain undone as a ministry. We are behind you. Today we are here, and tomorrow you will feel us adequately at the Stadium.

Adia Sowho, MTN’s Chief Marketing Officer, celebrated the progress of MTN CHAMPS, highlighting the remarkable growth of the competition since inception.

Giving her address, she said: “We’ve come a long way since the inception of MTN Athletics Championships. Season 1 was extraordinary. We were in four locations (Benin, Uyo, Ibadan, and Abuja), where 7000 Athletes from 375 schools registered and participated, showing their power, grit and unwavering determination to win. It was a beautiful discovery of raw talent and the amazing potential of Nigeria’s youths. Season 2 has already surpassed Season 1 in many ways. Over 8,000 people registered, and 2300 athletes registered for the Grand Finale.

“This Grand Finale is an opportunity to celebrate the achievement of our Athletes, coaches, and organizers. It’s a chance to recognize the countless hours of training, the moments of trying, and all the bonds that have been forged under a shared love for Athletics. It is exciting to imagine a future where Nigeria’s athletes are consistently at the podium at major international Athletics events, inspiring the next generation of young people to continue their dreams. This program is paving the way for the future, nurturing their talent and providing the support they need to reach their full potential.”

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Sowho further commended the athletes’ resilience, and spoke about the fruit MTN CHAMPS is set to yield in the near future, making reference to Miracle Ezechukwu who qualified for the forthcoming World U20 Championships in Peru after winning the Junior 100m and 200m titles in Jos.

MoC Founder Akani recounted the circumstances that led to the birth of MTN CHAMPS.

He said: “I went to Jamaica 11 years ago now, I saw their Champs and I realized this was something that had to happen in Nigeria. Now, about just 6 months in, we are at the culmination of Season 2: eight events in seven different cities. We had 375 schools in Season 1, we’ve now exceeded that In Season 2 – over 400 schools. We’ve exceeded the 7000 registered athletes in Season 1, now 8000. I think the Grand Final in Calabar is a huge feat. We have 2300 Athletes registered for Calabar”.

While speaking on what’s next after the Grand Final, he said “First of all, at the Grand Final, we are bringing 70 Team MVP Athletes, which is unprecedented. In Season 1, we had 43. We increased that number to 70, so that we can find the best talent all over the country. Some of them are in this room already, very excited to compete. Some of them are flying in from Abuja and Lagos today, having that opportunity to travel the country to compete against the best of the best that we are discovering all over the country. So once again, I’d like to say a big thank you to MTN for making that possible.

“The 70 Team MVP Athletes and the 2300 other Athletes who will be in Calabar this week will all be fighting for a place at the MoC Athletics Academy. MTN has been so gracious enough to sponsor 12 athletes from Season 1, and another 12 from Season 2, and we are already calling that team ‘Team MTN’. We’re going to really enjoy seeing the Athletes here progress to the Academy, and see their lives change. I think we have unlocked something very special in Nigeria, and I have no doubt that there will be many athletes discovered here that will represent Nigeria in the 2028 Olympics in the next four years”.

NSSF’s Vice-President, Pastor Emmanuel Ebong, pledged the Federation’s continued support for future MTN Champs events: “We know, together, we can partner and bring out worthy champions from Nigeria”, he said.

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