Almat adds Emir of Katsina Cup to trophy chest
Maurice Ekpenyong and his compact Almat Group polo team at the weekend continued their recent run of success when they won the highly revered Emir of Katsina Cup at the 2018 Kaduna Centenary International Polo Tournament. The success in the competition held at the Murtala Mohammed Polo ground stretches their victory run this year to four.
The winning run, which started earlier in the year at the prestigious Niger Delta Polo festival in Port Harcourt with a sensational victory in the Governor Cup, has seen the team winning such heavyweight polo diadems like the Orphanage Cup in Keffi, The President Cup at 12-12 Polo Turf in Abuja and the unprecedented three back-to back General Hassan Katsina Cup victory.
This remarkable victory record of the Almat polo lords, inaugurated only five years ago at the serene Guards Polo Club in Asokoro, has already confirmed them as top contenders for Best Team of the Year award.
Rated outsiders by pundits in the Emir of Katsina Cup that pitted three Kaduna-based teams, Sublime, YY Kangimi, Barbados and two visiting teams, Kano Titans, Lagos A-Plus, debuting Ekpenyong and his champion squad had only their self belief to count on.
It ultimately proved to be the Centenary’s biggest surprise, as Almat Tigers, AlMalik Badamasi, Idris badamasi, Manuel Crespo and their patron, stunned Kaduna Sublime in their opening game and edged Lagos A-Plus in the semifinal to book a final ticket in the royal polo prize in the century old Kaduna polo carnival.
Their final game against pundits’ favourites, Kaduna YY Kangimi was the game changer, with Maurice and his warriors cruising to a comfortable 9-71/2 victory in a sensational campaign to fetch them the Emir of Katsina title on first attempt.
The fiesta was a highly competitive run of matches between the top-ranked teams and emerging polo powers on knock-out basis.
“I think Ekpenyong and his Almat guys will be a major champion within the next couple of years,” Bello Buba, the first Nigerian top rated player to win the Georgian Cup a record 18 times, said. “It’s awesome to see him tearing it up here.”
Three back-to-back cup victories has further confirmed Almat Group LCC squad as the Medium-goal team to beat in the Nigerian circuit.
Their patron, Ekpenyong, who earned a deserved handicap elevation by the polo ruling authority, is up there alone in the race for the New Patron of the Year award.
Other top winners in the epoch Centenary tournament that pitted over 40 top teams in the nine days international extravaganza include reigning Nigerian high-goal kings, Kaduna EL-Amin, who won their 15th Georgian Cup title, and Badakao who won the Imani Cup.