By Millicent Senava Mannah
The Orange Sponsors You – Kids Tournament 2022 commenced on Friday, 1st July 2022 and ended on the 4th July 2022 during which the Sierra Leone Kids team, Orthodox Football Club, battled against 9 other countries in Casablanca, Morocco where the tournament was played emerging in the third position. The competing countries were Morocco, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Cost, the Central Africa Republic, Cameroon and Burkina Faso.
It could be recalled that after much efforts by the country’s leading mobile operator, Orange-SL, to get the winners of the Under 13 Championship football competition, Orthodox Football Club, a team that the telecommunications company had wanted to sponsor to watch the Finals of the AFCON tournament in Cameroon and to also compete with other junior teams out of the country, did not materialize at that time. Such was as a result of the Covid-19 procedures laid down by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Rather, the Management of the company, in a Press Conference it lateron convened at its Hill Station Offices, told the Management of the Orthodox Football Club and the players that it will compensate them instead.
Speaking during that meeting, an official by the name of, Slim, of the Orange Marketing Department, disclosed that the company has decided to offer Le50 million to the players, plus refund of the cost of procuring their passports, and another Le50 million to the Management of the team for the club.
He further expressed disappointment over the whole saga which he said was due to the stringent measures imposed by CAF on all visitors and players who will be watching the match.
The Orange-SL official furthered by informing the audience that the program was organized by a group to hold a tournament for Under 13 players from 29 African countries and the winners from the respective countries will battle it out in a competition that was scheduled to take place in Cameroon immediately after the AFCON games.
It was therefore the desire of the group to get the said Under 13 winners from the various African countries to attend the final match of the AFCON tournament and interact with the Stars, after which they will then commence their own matches.
The Orange Marketing officer noted that competition was organized in Sierra Leone, where the Orthodox Football Club emerged as the winner, and was accordingly billed to attend the AFCON Final and then engage in their own competition with the other Under-13 African teams.
He added that several engagements were held with CAF and the group on arrangements for the said trip, but CAF was insistent on the under 13 players to take the Covid-19 vaccines before they will be allowed to enter the country and the stadium.
He noted that such a decision by CAF then was not accepted by the other African Under-13 teams, as many parents were opposed to their kids taking the vaccines.
Thus a deadlock was reached and the group and Orange then decided to postpone the scheduled competition until after the AFCON games and possibly in another venue.
He maintained that they were as disappointed as the players saying they understood the trauma those affected would be going through but disclosed that, as a result ,the company has decided to compensate the team and the club.
He hastened to stress that Orthodox FC is the winner of the tournament conducted in Sierra Leone and will represent the country in the tournament that will be held after AFCON after a date has been set and a venue certified. He expressed apology on behalf of Orange for the disappointment, even though it was not the making of the company, but purely the insistence of CAF on those stringent procedures that deprived these young boys the opportunity to experience football at that level and interact with top stars in the sector. Orange, he said will continue to promote young talents in the country.
Both the Manager and Head Coach of Orthodox FC, in their brief statements, commended Orange-SL for their good work in promoting sports in the country, as well as doing their best to expose the youths to greater opportunities.
According to them, they recognize the hindrance placed on them to travel by the CAF Covid-19 procedures and praised Orange-SL for the compensation given to the club and the players.
“We still celebrate as we have so much to be thankful for,” the official concluded.