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Higher institutions football league: Boosting sports development in Nigeria

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Over the years, sport has been identified as a powerful tool for strengthening social ties and networks. Besides, it has been proven an effective catalyst for promoting ideals crucial for peaceful, locally driven development. But despite its inherent ability to bring people together, in particular the youths, the tremendous potential of sport for development to achieve youth development objectives, has been under utilized, especially in schools.

In Nigeria, being a part of the higher institutions has its awes and flaws, however, students always look forward to any extra-curricular activity that will cause an enjoyable distraction or relax the stress nerves even for a moment. Once an activity springs up, the atmosphere is somewhat celebration-filled as students begin to plan how their schedules would fit into the new development.

The situation is no different when the National University Games Association (NUGA) announces the commencement of a new edition. Schools begin massive preparation, which includes recruiting, training and retraining of potential candidates that best represents the school.

Indeed, intercollegiate sports is not new to Nigeria, however, it has shown a snail-like growth in the country in the past decade. Particularly, lack of consistency in the existent collegiate sports has barred any opportunity for sustainable growth in terms of linking potential winners/budding athletes to the professional scene. As it seems, the focus on the Super Eagles and other top shots in the sports industry, has indirectly affected the progression of collegiate sports in the country.

In a bid to change the narratives and help grow collegiate sports in Nigeria, PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing recently launched the Higher Institutions Football League (HiFL) for teams in Nigerian higher institutions. With the maiden games already scheduled to hold from July 28, 2018 to October 27, 2018, this will be the first organised collegiate football league in the country.

HiFL seeks to revive collegiate sports in Nigeria, as well as create unification amongst higher institutions with a common vision, which supersedes short-term goals. Beyond sports, it seeks a tie-in of an international recognition of athletic success to the improvement of academic objectives, enhancing the overall reputation of higher institutions in Nigeria on a global scale.

This initiative is a calculated solution to the prevalent lack of sustainable policy on school sports as it is handled by private entities whose ultimate goal is to create formidable platform that will guarantee the discovery and pool of budding talents useful to the national team at all levels.

Meanwhile, the league will commence with universities, which has been zoned into the Atlantic Conference (South) and the Savannah Conference (North) for reasons of proximity and effective administration.

Following the signing of MOU between PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing (PSEM) and Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA), the President of NUGA, Prof. Hamafyelto has expressed optimism that the issue of lack of funding for collegiate sports in Nigeria may now be adequately addressed.

“HiFL is the platform to enable NUGA inspire Nigerian students as the next generation through excellence in sports and academics. It will complement the efforts of NUGA to bring back the good old days of competitive inter-school games with all the excitement therein. Interestingly, we are starting with football, which may be described as the pivot of Nigerian sports in an arrangement that we hope will spread to other sports later,” he enthused.

According to the Director, PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing, Mr. Sola Fijabi, the project has been designed for the purpose of youth development in Nigeria through sports by building a strong ecosystem of young, homegrown football talents that may become invaluable for future national engagement.

“The project is designed to engage and showcase exciting sporting talents from tertiary institutions in Nigeria. It’s a part of a bigger body, which is the HiSL -Higher Institutions Sports League. The quest to establish this platform was borne out of the great desire to engage Nigerian youth. Currently, a significant number of this set of youth is in the universities spread across the country; these talents must be identified and nurtured for sustainability,” Fijabi said.

In his goodwill message, the President of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) Mr. Amaju Pinnick lauded the initiative, adding, “HiFL is a noble and maiden project that we are looking forward to it becoming an annual event.”

For discerning brands, HiFL is another platform for connecting with consumers, as well as being part of the movement to boost sports developement in Nigeria.

“HiFL has been designed to address the needs of every brand. Here, we are referring to over 60% of the population in Nigeria as prospective customers of any discerning brand; that’s huge. Opportunities such as kit endorsement/branding; branding of the display panels around the football pitch; branding of fans bid; products display amongst other sponsorship opportunities are available. The beauty of these profound opportunities is that brands may simply tap in for their corporate social responsibility programmes,” Fijabi said.


In this article:
Sola Fijabi
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