Coca-Cola Zambia has unlocked a new reward for its 26th edition of the under15 grassroot football tournament by doubling its prize money for top three finishers.

The prize money for the winning team (school) for both categories will be K30,000, K20, 000 for the runners-up and K15, 000 for the third position respectively.

The tournament scheduled for next month in Lusaka will for the first time have a female category whose winning teams will get the same amount of money as the male competitors.

Speaking during the tournament draws in Lusaka yesterday, Coca-Cola regional franchise director Phillipine Mtikitiki said the inclusion of the female category and levelling of the prize money was a deliberate empowerment move aimed at breaking gender barriers in sport.

“We are much aware that the world is working towards achieving gender equality in many areas where women have had a small participation like sports. This tournament will be one of the efforts made to achieve equity and equality between men and women,” said Mtikitiki. The regional director also said there was need for parents to support their girl children that play football, adding that it was a strong form of empowerment.

And Ministry of Education permanent secretary Henry Tukombe applauded Coca-Cola for introducing a female category.

“I must mention that football is considered full employment hence the need to nurture it at grassroots. The 25 years Coca-Cola has been ensuring the Copa football tournament is a success is no menial achievement and the inclusion of the girls’ category is a milestone every well-meaning Zambian should be proud of,” the PS said.

Meanwhile, Zambia Schools Sports Association (ZASSA) president Chipangano Tembo recognised the efforts Coca-Cola had made in the previous years to develop discovered talents among youths in Zambian schools.

“The Copa tournament will always be a memorable one because a lot of youth talent has been discovered through it, and its rewards are improved from time to time,” Tembo noted.