As teams prepare to slug it out in the 2019 edition of the Higher Institutions Football League, draws for the group stages has been held in Lagos yesterday as the new team jerseys and logos were unveiled. The 32 teams that qualified for the group stage were draw into eight groups of four teams each starting from Group A- Group H from the Sahel and Coastal divisions.
Group A has UNILAG Marines, FUTA Tigers, EKSU Mountaineers, OAU Giants. while Group B has UI Pioneers, AAUA Luminaries, LCU Gladiators, LASU Blazers. In Group C, UNIUYO Tuskites, IAUE Minders, DELSU Titans, UNICAL Malabiites, will do battle to qualify for the round of 16. MOUAU Bloomers, RSU Dolphins, ESUT Explorers, NDU Oilers were ceded in Group D as Group E will feature UNIBEN Royals, FUOYE Dazzlers, FUNAI Hawks and UNIZIK Cardinals. Teams in Group F include NILE Rovers, FUTMINNA Transformers, PLASU Boulders, UNILORIN Warriors. while Group G plays host to ABU Nobles, KUST Pyramid, ATBU Bravehearts, UNIMAID Dessert warriors. The last group, Group H will have BUK Stallions, NSUK Miners, BSU Weavers, UAM Tillers.
Games in group stages will be held across the eight host institutions that were automatically ceded for the draws for ease of games logistics and facilities. The first two teams from each group will automatically qualify for the round of 16.
Explaining the reasoning behind the modalities for the draws, the Director of PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing, Mr. Sola Fijabi said the format was reviewed to enhance the league and create more excitement for its teeming fans.
“HiFL is a game changing initiative and it is heart-warming that the league has gained acceptance across higher institutions in Nigeria. We have reviewed the rules of the game in line with our experiences from last year and global trends in football and collegiate sports. We have done this in conjunction with our partner, the Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA) and other technical partners. Our desire is to create a league that would be of pride to us as a company, the Nigerian universities and indeed our esteemed sponsors,” Fijabi said.
It would be recalled that StanbicIBTC, one of the major sponsors of the league recently signed a five years deal with the league. Regarding sponsorships, Fijabi said, “our sponsors have been very supportive. We truly appreciate their alignment with the HiFL vision. While we acknowledge the commercial involvement, more appreciated is their support for the social development of Nigerian youths through sports. We sincerely hope that these engagements will yield the desirable outcomes in due course”.
In his remark, the President of the Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA), Prof. Stephen Hamafyelto enthused that NUGA is committed to ensuring a more successful outing taking key learnings from the past edition.
“We are ready at NUGA to ensure that the 2019 HiFL session is a success. Our member institutions are ready and roaring to go. We are pleased at the execution of the 2018 season despite the initial challenges. We are committed to ensuring that our students and indeed sports loving Nigerians have thrilling experiences across the match centres, commencing from the group stages. We sincerely thank the sponsors for their ingenuity in supporting this course,” Hamafyelto said.
The draws which held at the Oriental Hotel, Lagos was witnessed by sports pundits, school administrations, captains of industry and other football enthusiasts. The Group games starts on June 18 and will be played over 21 weeks. The round of 16 will be played in a return leg elimination onward the finals where the Super Four teams will play in a grand finale to be held at the Agege Township Stadium, Lagos.