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Hockey Federation revives IEI League


THE promise by the incumbent board of the Nigeria Hockey Federation (NHF) led by former international, Patrick Ukah, to reposition Nigerian hockey has taken a positive step with the kick-off of the 2010 season of the International Energy Insurance (IEI) National Hockey League.

Grouped into two assemblies – the Atlantic and Savannah, all the hockey teams in the South West, South East and South South would converge in Lagos at the weekend for one week of quality hockey games. The Atlantic Assembly comes to an end next weekend.

Ukah, who played in the colours of Union Bank Hockey team, explained: “The NHF is officially opening the hockey season and we want to do it with our most prestigious tournament, the IEI National Hockey League. But the unique thing about this year’s tournament is that it is going to lead us having our Premier League team.

“At the end of the year, we would be able to categorise our teams into the Premier League and Division 2. But before that, all the teams would be playing in one league and the best ones would make up our Premier League next season.”

With no fewer than 12 male and female teams taking part in the Atlantic Assembly at the Lagos National Stadium, the revived IEI Hockey League would move to the Savannah Assembly, which comprises teams from the Middle Belt and Northern Region. The venue for the Savannah Assembly is the Astro Turf pitch in Kaduna.

The best two teams (male and female) in both centres would have the opportunity to go for the grand finale in Abuja, where the best male and female teams for the 2010 league would emerge at the National Stadium, Abuja.

“We want to win back our fans, so we are taking the Lagos opener very serious,” Ukah added. “We want to make sure that fans come back to stadia to see hockey and enjoy great games like it used to be. We are expecting traditional teams, like Union Bank team, El-Kanemi Flickers, Niger Flickers and a host of others. We intend to bring back the old rivalry in sport city.”

The NHF president also informed that this was part of plans by the board to turn around the fortune of hockey in the country as promised upon coming on board.He spoke further:”When we came on board we have said we are out to achieve certain goals.

“One of them is that we want to improve the catchment base of hockey players and that is why we are about launching Operation Save Hockey in Nigeria. It is a school hockey initiative and every year it would see us bring up 100 hockey players in each geopolitical zone in Nigeria, which is going to make it 1,200 players in the 12 geopolitical zones of the county in one year.”

The winner of the 2010 IEI National League would represent the country at the2010 African Club Champions Cup later in the year.

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