Football for long has become one of the most widely admired, and rewarding sport around the world. Apart from promoting fun and unity among people, it has become an instrument of socio-economic empowerment for the players.
In other to promote football in high institutions across the country, in 2018, Higher Institutions Football League (HiFL) has been introduced to the Nigerian university community.
The maiden 2018 league season for tertiary institutions has been rated successful following the creative impact of the event.
It has also been seen to have contributed to infrastructural development in the universities and spurred grassroots development as well as promoted economic and career enhancement for the participating students.
A look at last season showed that 16 universities in Nigeria participated at the 2018 HiFL competition. UAM Trillers of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi came first while UNICAL Malabites of University of Calabar took the second place at the final maiden edition of HiFL held at the University of Lagos, Akoka.
Our correspondent learnt that the winning team received a cash prize of N1million, the first runners up received N500,000 while the second runners up got N250,000.
Odenigbo, Ebuka David, from the University of Makurdi was the highest goal scorer with eight goals during the 2018 season.
The young man, whose family was very excited at his good fortune, was showered with gift prices. He has been signed up to play for Kano Pillars FC and would be headed for Italy soon for professional enhancement.
The game has also given exposure to the students as some of the participants made the trip to Lagos for the first time.
Some players in the first year in their institutions were said to have been given scholarships by the organisers after the season.
Our correspondent also learnt that the game brought bonding as family and friends came together to cheer their own; it also boosted commercial activities while it lasted and has further encouraged infrastructural development among the universities as they had to upgrade their facilities to meet the game’s infrastructure demands.
In the light of these impacts, organisers of HIFL – PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing and, the Nigeria University Games Association (NUGA) have announced that all is now set for a bigger, better and more exciting 2019 Higher Institutions Football League season.
Speaking at a press conference to announce the commencement of the 2019 league, the Director, PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing, Mr. Sola Fijabi, expressed appreciation to the members of the press and partners for the success of last season. According to him, all is now set for a bigger, better and more exciting 2019 season.
“We are accommodating more schools and expanding engagements across the board. We have concluded plans to take the Nigerian team made up of the best players from the 2018 season to Naples, Italy, for the World University Games (FISU). We are proud of the role the league is playing in enhancing youth development in Nigeria.
“Already, two of the outstanding talents from the 2018 season are on the books of professional football teams in Nigeria.
“Our objective is to place collegiate sports in Nigeria on the same pedestal with their counterparts in other countries and build a strong ecosystem of young, home-grown football talents that may become invaluable for future national engagement,” Mr. Fijabi remarked.
President of the Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA), Professor Stephen Hamafyelto, assured all stakeholders that the association is committed to ensuring that the 2019 season is a success.
“We are glad that the league has not only given a voice to the abundant football talents across the country, but also has become an instrument for socio-economic development,” Hamafyelto said.
In the words of Olamide Adeyemo, Chief Strategy Officer, PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing: “We know that Nigerians love football and we know that there are lots of people playing football. What we are doing is connecting brands with that passion. HIFL is just a game but for PACE, it is beyond football.
“Apart from the exposure that we are giving the players, we also connect them with agents and scouts who are interested in their professional development.”
Our correspondent further learnt that at the 2019 university games, 32 universities and 66 games will feature. The qualifying rounds start in March.
The organisation noted that “through HiFL we are getting the best of the best players around the country and we have opened up professional opportunities for the players. More importantly; we are showcasing how good Nigerians are in soccer.”