Over the past decades, sports have proven to be a powerful tool for strengthening social ties and networks. It has proved to be an effective catalyst for promoting ideals crucial for peaceful, locally driven development. But despite all its inherent ability to bring people together, particularly the youths, the tremendous potential of sport development to achieve youth development objectives and foster healthy rivalry and growth has been underutilised, especially in higher institutions.
Indeed, intercollegiate sport is not new to Nigeria and Africa as a whole, various intercollegiate sports competition has taken place over the last couple of years from sports associations and the likes such as NUGA Games, WAPOGA, NPGA, NPUGA, etc. However, collegiate sport has shown slow growth in the country in the past decade. Particularly, the lack of consistency in the existent collegiate sports has barred any opportunity for sustainable growth in intercollegiate sports.
In an attempt to change the narrative and help develop collegiate sport in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, Pace Sports and Entertainment Marketing (PSEM) launched the Higher Institution Football League (HiFL) in 2018. HIFL is Nigeria's biggest varsity football league designed annually for higher institutions in Nigeria particularly universities to display campus football talents, stimulate healthy rivalry, and engage them across Nigeria in the unifying spirit of sportsmanship. Going on to its fourth season, HiFL has had a great impact on the movement of collegiate sports in Nigeria and showcasing football talents across the country.
Like all sporting competitions, showcasing Nigeria’s vast football talents across the world is one of the objectives of HiFL and it can only be right to say they have gone a long way in achieving their goals and objectives. With great talents playing within and across the world, HiFL has surely achieved one of its goals, “… empowering and showcasing local talents”. HiFL can boast of creating professional pathways for students through sports. Some of HiFL’s talents include Robert Odu, new signing of Spanish third tier division team, Extremadura UD, Odenigbo Ebuka David who is a center-forward for Kano Pillars, Emmanuel Ogbole, current player for Nasarawa United, Seyi James Olumofe, Stoneywood Parkvale FC new signing from Keith FC in the Scottish league.
Beyond football, HiFL has gone on to create different platforms to engage the non-athlete population across Nigeria some of which include HiFL Volunteer force, Student Franchise Initiative, Unifest, campus Fiestas, etc. The HiFL Volunteer force is an avenue created by HiFL to inspire students and give them an opportunity to be a part of creating and enabling change within their immediate community. The Volunteer Force was created to enable students to contribute their bit to the development of sports opportunities and grassroots football in their universities.
The HiFL Student Franchise program is an HiFL initiative that is committed to providing an enabling environment for students on campus to thrive, thereby empowering them through sport, in its quest for youth development. This initiative was born in a bid to create financial independence for students and also curb the alarming rate of unemployment. Students with experience in sales are given an avenue to market and promote the HiFL merchandises which include HiFL ball, HiFL jerseys, HiFL t-shirts, etc. in their schools and immediate community.
UniFest is an exciting platform that discovers and showcases talents from higher institutions across Nigeria. The competition offers an opportunity for special talents to perform at HiFL special events which will be broadcasted across Africa. Unifest has given talented students of Nigeria Universities an avenue to showcase their talents where the winner gets a one-year talent management deal, cash prizes, and other exciting gifts.
HiFL, the football franchise of Higher Institutions Sports League (HiSL), an asset created and managed by PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing Limited; in conjunction with the Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA) has been identified and reported by the International University Sports Federation(FISU), in partnership with LaLiga and the Nigerian University Games Association(NUGA).