“School issa scam”
This is one of the most widely utilized phrases among students in Nigerian tertiary institutions, as well as her graduates alike and is often pronounced as typed. The ideology stemming from the fact that the educational system gives less than it claims to offer. ‘’School doesn’t prepare you for the real world in Nigeria”, some would say. The stark contrasts in reality are too glaring.
You are expected to focus on your books only, and in most varsity student handbooks. When the term Full-Time student is defined, the picture is clearer, be it at Undergraduate or Postgraduate level. Students are meant to be consistently dependent on their parents for income unlike in developed countries. It warps the society indirectly into the scenario too. Employers are unwilling to hire students, save interns who have a specific duration of availability from their institution.
I almost never had a social life in my tertiary institution days. The manner in which our social life was riddled gave no way for curricular activities. Not even sport. I had always wished the higher institutions’ football league started earlier. Regardless, I may still not have had the time.
The initiative was birthed by Pace Sports Entertainment and Marketing to revive Varsity Sports in Nigeria. A trailblazer, the competition has brought back the joy and excitement of old. Never have students been so hyped about a sporting event as this. A template akin to the Varsity schools cup in South Africa, this is no slouch.
The NCAA does the Good work in America. While South Africa’s Lets Play programme is the best thing to happen to Sports at Grassroots level in Africa. The HiFL is the Nigerian incarnate perhaps?
The first installment which saw sixteen elite schools participate had the UAM Tillers emerge as champions with the UNICAL Malabites, OAU Giants and UNILORIN Warriors rounding off the top 4. Beautiful football and gracious experience of varying institutions whetted the appetite ahead of a second edition which is now reaching the Quarter Final stage. In a country where sports branding is still light years behind its counterpart, the initiative has shown otherwise.
There is no cliché of title sponsorship and the competition is like a galaxy, where everyone gets to shine and not a can of sardines where the fishes can barely fit in. They are showing that with the right strategy and aim, there are willing investors in Africa’s biggest exporter of Sport talent.
It helps not only to expose the players but also help with the development of age-grade competitions as well as giving the fans something to cheer about. I am still bragging about my alma matter’s victory over the UI pioneers, two weeks after.
The manner in which responsibility is thrusted on the school, especially the student volunteers, is impeccable, teaching leadership qualities but also imbibing values that have died in the Nigerian society, where everything always goes for something (which isn’t a bad mindset, but also creates a shallow outlook on life perhaps?)
Players who excel get to represent the country at the World University Games flying their country’s flag. There are more reasons for students’ to now pick up varsity forms because of a platform that gives them a bigger chance of achieving their dreams while the unemployment rate continues to rise like yeast. A career in sport doesn’t have to hinder your education. David Ebuka and Emmanuel Ogbole of the 2018 Tillers now play for Kano Pillars and Nassarawa United respectively, Unilag’s Robert Odu plays in the NNL with First Bank FC, Uniben’s Osas Imade played for Bendel Insurance in the last NPFL. The possibilities are limitless.
The Gala Nite is a treat of its own where tie meets style. Filled with fun, glamour and pizzaz. It is the real definition of elite. The Media coverage of the event in its entirety is one that excites alluding to the pidgin proverb ”Wen fruit fine, na everybody want am”
The competition may not be perfect but credit must be given where due, when in no time, this could be the biggest competition in the country. With a following that is almost at par with the Nigerian professional league if not more, and an extremely interactive social media handle. The sky isn’t the limit, it is the starting point. I already look forward to this year’s grand finale. We, as spectators and fans only wish the Professional Football League in Nigeria had such transparency for starters, and also was not a buzzkill when mentioned in conversations.
For more information about HiFL, you can check here on their website.
Author: Tosin Adesina
A football purist.