Ahmed Rady, Coca-Cola East & Central Africa General Manager (centre) during a celebratory moment with the Kenyan boys team who scooped the coveted Copa Coca-Cola Africa Cup Trophy

The inaugural tournament is a convergence of soccer talent from around the continent in a move that aims to tap into the immense potential of grassroot football

In Africa, more than 500,000 teens aged 13-15 take part in domestic Copa Coca-Cola tournaments each year. Now in its 30th year, Copa Coca-Cola is the world’s largest grassroots football tournament. The recently hosted Inaugural Copa Coca-Cola Africa Cup was held in Kenya with over 200 players from 12 countries. Participating countries include: Angola, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, and the host country – Kenya. The tournament also featured two girls teams from Zimbabwe and Kenya. These talented, football-loving teenagers drawn from across the continent forged new friendships and gained valuable skills on and off the pitch during the tournament returning home as champions of change in their communities. 

The need for the continental showpiece has been informed by a vision to grow the tournament from a country level into an international tournament that allows young people not only to play with their international counterparts but have the chance to be scouted by recruiters from all over the world.

Official tournament banner used to create publicity on outdoor media and digital platforms

Aimed at nurturing indigenous talent and developing the overall winning character of the participants, Copa Africa Cup Tournament sought to bridge geographical and socioeconomic perspectives by developing talent in the continent. The annual grassroots tourney has discovered icons like Tottenham midfielder Victor Wanyama, Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi, and Liverpool’s Taiwo Awoniyi.

Kenyan player takes a penalty during the finals against Nigeria.

Kenya (red jersey) takes on Zimbabwe during the girls finals at Afraha Stadium, Nakuru.

Soccer has always been more than just a game to its fans. It brings together a nation's people and their fervent devotion to a sport that both exemplifies brotherhood and intensifies rivalries.

Since its inception in Zimbabwe in 1989, the COPA Coca-Cola journey has been exceptional, traversing continents to emerge as a global phenomenon. Once again, Africa will be leading in initiating a youth tournament to showcase grass root football talents

“The Coca-Cola Company has a longstanding connection with soccer and the sport’s ability to bring people together,” said Reinaldo Padua, Head of Marketing East & Central Africa, The Coca-Cola Company. “Because of that heritage, we wanted to be a part of the first ever Copa Africa Cup, which will celebrate the tournament’s rich history, and the passion and excitement that surround it. We are therefore evolving Copa Coca-Cola to further promote cultural exchange and talent recognition in Africa.”

“Copa Coca-Cola unites teens in every continent, promoting physical activity and encouraging values that are the foundation of life and sportsmanship. Each of the skilled teenagers invited to this year’s Copa Africa Cup competed in a series of regional rounds to participate in local national championship, before being selected for the continental tournament. During the tournament, players have received expert coaching as well as enjoyed fun-filled evenings at the camp. The youth also got a rare chance of visiting breathtaking tourist sites to appreciate the beauty of this country,” said Beatrice Nyamari, Head of Integrated Marketing and Communication for Coca-Cola, East and Central Africa.

As the host of the tournament, Coca-Cola East and Central Africa Franchise partnered with the Ministry of Education and the Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) to manage the tourney. Their support and involvement were key to ensuring the success of the tournament. The tournament received dedicated coverage from media partners including SuperSport, GoTV, Kwese, NTV, and Capital FM. The media value for this partnership stood at $3,350,000 generating PR Value of $5.2 million. This figure is set to increase given ongoing coverage across various markets.

Newspaper clippings of media coverage across the continent and tournament social media reach

Private sector support was offered by Kenya Airways, Resolution Insurance, Parapet Cleaning Services, and Senaca Security. To compliment the Kenyan government representation at the event, the tournament had representation from foreign envoys such as Pindi Hazara Chana, Tanzanian Ambassador, Brenda Muntemba, Zambian Ambassador, and Angolan Ambassador Syanga Abilio who came to boost morale of the players and pass messages of encouragement on behalf of their governments. Ambassadors from Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Mozambique sent messages of support to all teams.

L-R: Amb. Brenda Muntemba (Zambia High Commissioner to Kenya), Johnson Sakaja, Nairobi Senator, and Dr. Belio Kipsang, Principal Secretary for Education (front centre) at the opening ceremony

Kenya emerged overall winner in both the boys and girls categories of Copa Coca-Cola Under-16 Africa Cup of Nations as the tournament at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru County, Kenya. The boys overcame gritty Nigeria in the post-match penalties winning 3-2 after settling for a barren draw in regulation time.

The Kenyan girls edged Zimbabwe 1-0 to be crowned champions. Botswana took bronze after beating Zambia in a third-place playoffs match. The match ended in a 1-1 draw setting the stage for the decisive penalties.

Nigeria team who emerged runners up at the finals pose for a photo.

Kenya’s keeper Issa Emuria (green jersey) receives the ‘Golden Glove’ award for the best goalkeeper of the continental tournament. He remarkably conceded only one goal in all five matches.