Sports CS Ababu Namwamba on Friday urged football stakeholders across the country to embrace grassroots football during the first edition of the Elijah Lidonde Junior Cup finals held at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega.
Over 498 under-15 and under-17 girls and boys, teams participated in the tournament honoring former Harambee Stars and AFC Leopards (formerly Abaluhya FC) Elijah Lidonde who died in September 1987.
Accompanied by Kakamega Governor Fernandez Baraza, Namwamba said the government through the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture has started implementing the development of grassroots football through the Elija Lidonde Junior Cup.
"It is such a great moment today that we are assembling together at Bukhungu Stadium to support young talent. This tourney aligns very well with the government's goal of the Bottom Ups model which aims at uplifting football standards starting from the lower levels," he said.
"We want it to be a culture in Kenya that sports development starts in the villages and rural areas where raw untapped talent is moving upwards. If we implement this, we will be at the World Cup come 2030."
The former Budalangi MP also revealed that the government will come in during Phase Three of Bukhungu Stadium construction which is 75% complete. He said infrastructure development is key in football development in the country.
"The Kakamega Governor has promised he will finish Phase Two of the stadium in the next few months to make Bukhungu a 30,000 seater capacity stadium and I am promising that the government will take over Phase 3 where we will raise the status of the stadium further."
The late Lidonde, who died in September 1987, captained both Abaluhya (AFC Leopards) and Harambee Stars between 1950 and 1961.
The Elijah Lidonde Cup coordinator Fred Serengeti said the tourney was played within Lurambi, Ikolomani, and Shinyalu Constituencies.
In the finals, Lurambi defeated Shinyalu 2-1 to win the Under 17 Girls finals category as EL Select defeated Lurambi in the Under 17 Boys finals.
The winners were awarded a trophy and Gift Shopping Vouchers to help them ahead of 2023 back to school.