The second edition of the COPA Lagos beach soccer tournament lived up to the standards set last year as more visitors thronged the venue of the competition.
There are so many ways to boost tourism and sport is one of the more obvious ways. This realism again was evident during the recently concluded COPA Lagos beach soccer tournament that took place at the Eko Atlantic City, Lagos. The annual four-team competition was in its second edition after a successful debut last year.
With the host team (Nigeria) being a permanent fixture, six other countries have graced the competition over the past two years namely Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, England, South Africa and Lebanon. There have also been cheerleaders from Scotland and Spain.
The visibility COPA Lagos has brought to Nigeria - Lagos State and Eko Atlantic in particular - cannot be overemphasized. It is interesting that for many citizens of Lagos, Eko Atlantic is an unknown quantity. Most of those who made their way to the venue (70 percent will be a safe estimate) erroneously believed the Eko Atlantic City to be around the showroom at the entrance to Kuramo beach.
This writer on countless occasions encountered dozens of people awestruck at the sheer size of the Eko Atlantic project. "Can you imagine, we're standing on water," was a common refrain. The interesting part is that land reclamation is still far from over. COPA Lagos is, surely, a smart marketing tool for Eko Atlantic City.
The competition, however, goes beyond just being an avenue to draw attention to one of the most ambitious projects in these parts. Key components of tourism include organisation, hospitality and entertainment. In this regard, there was a lot more than a few teams getting dirty on the beach.
By the very nature of the venue, adequate transportation was a necessity; very few cars are suited to the terrain, with the venue a couple of kilometres from the main entrance to Eko Atlantic. This was solved by Kinetic Sports, the organisers of the event, who made sure air-conditioned shuttle buses as well as double-decker tourist buses were provided to convey visitors to the venue; about 10,000 over the three days the competition lasted.
The transformation (via temporary structures) of the beach from an empty sea of sand to a stadium, a concert hall, a fashion show runway and stands for food and drink vendors was ingenious to say the least. Added to these were the covered stand for VIP guests - complete with red carpet - and the VIP lounge which ensured that for the three days the event lasted, it was the place to go in Lagos for fun and socializing.
COPA Lagos More Than Game
"It's more than a game, it's a lifestyle," COPA Lagos claims when it comes to beach soccer. This couldn't be more evident in the difference between day and night. The days were warm, sometimes sweltering (unless you were a VIP) with sunglasses holding sway. Come evening though and everything changes; the cool sea breeze makes it especially comfortable and the ample use of lighting converts the lounge into a nightclub of sorts.
The concerts, which drew an audience exceeding 3,000, featured some of the best-known Nigerian acts with WizKid especially attracting a large following. His performance was made special when the Spanish cheerleaders joined him on stage to the delight of the audience.
COPA Lagos was transmitted live on Supersport but the competition's reach wasn't limited to Africa; it was broadcast by 21 other international stations and there was strong viewership in the Middle-east and South America. It was transmitted to Europe too, all contributing to a viewership in excess of 250 million homes worldwide.
It wouldn't be out of place to say that viewers who watched from the comfort of their homes missed the essence of the beach soccer experience because there was a lot more to COPA Lagos than four teams trying to outdo each other in the sand. While the Sand Eagles of Nigeria retained their title, the county won in more ways than one.
About 1000 jobs were created for the 3-day event with 100 volunteers getting match day experience while more than 300 school children got free entry to watch COPA Lagos live. There was also a Clean the Beach campaign organised by FCMB and promoted by Beach Soccer Worldwide.
Surely, the boost COPA Lagos must have given Nigeria's image as a fun destination where international competitions can be held successfully is priceless.