HANDBALL: HFN President Commends Athletes For Record-Breaking Performance As National U18 and U21 Championships Closes (AUDIO)

The National U18 and U21 Handball Championships came to an end on Saturday with a new national scoring record set and new champions emerging in four categories after a week of intense competition at the Rowe Sports Park, Yaba, Lagos.

In the final round of games played on Saturday, Future Pro of Ogun lost both games in the U21 male and female categories falling 28-43 to the Lagos team in the U21 male category and 10-44 to Rising Stars of the FCT in the U21 female category. The day’s final game saw Kogi edge out Lagos 42-34 in a hugely thrilling encounter in the U18 male category to bring the on-court action to a close.

Kogi’s victory on the final day meant they pipped Lagos to emerge champions of the U18 male category with six points. Lagos finished in second place on four points while Future Pro of Ogun finished in third place. In the U18 female category, Mind Scope Academy confounded expectations to finish in first place ahead of more fancied Lagos and Kogi who finished in second and third place respectively.

Lagos, however, were far and away the best team in the U21 male category with the hosts finishing on ten points to emerge champions. Kwara finished in second place on six points while Rising Stars of the FCT finished in third place. In the U21 female category, Kwara finished in first place with six points to emerge champions. Rising Stars of the FCT and Lagos finished in second and third places respectively.

President of the Handball Federation of Nigeria (HFN) Sam Ocheho who was present for the final day of action said the tournament surpassed expectations and expressed satisfaction with the level of the athletes’ performances and the new talents unearthed at the week-long event.

“I think it has lived up to expectation, you can see the quality of display that is going on so as a board we are very happy and we are glad that this is producing newer players.

“I didn’t expect it to be like this but I think the talent I’m seeing on display I’m actually very and glad that such a thing is happening and I’m happy that the two best teams in the tournament have emerged,” Ocheho added.

Faidat Adewole of Mind Scope Academy was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the U18 female category while Lagos’ Chukwuka Michael took home the award in the U18 male category. Taye Ibrahim of Kwara and Ogundokun Sodiq of Future Pro were named MVP in the U21 female and male categories respectively.

The best goalkeeper award went to the team Lagos duo of Kehinde Babatunde and Segun Adeleke in the U18 female and male categories respectively while in the U21 female and male categories, Adio Aishat of Kwara and Samson Akintunde were named best goalkeepers.

Damilola Akinlade of Mind Scope Academy and Taiwo Babatunde of team Lagos were tied for the top scorer award in the U18 female category with both players scoring nineteen goals apiece. Sanni Mutari scored 31 goals for Kogi to cart home the award in the U18 male category.

Idowu Abdulrazaak of team Kwara was top scorer in the U21 female category with 31 goals while Timothy Isa scored a scarcely believable 71 goals to win the top scorer award in the U21 male category. Isa who hails from Nasarawa state set a new national record with his exploits in front of goal.

Tournament hosts Lagos were champions in just one category much against the expectations of Head Coach Olubukola Duru who attributed the inability of the hosts to sweep all categories to a bit of hardluck and ill-discipline.

“I would have loved to win in all the categories, but the luck was not just on our side. The U21 female had their opportunity [on Friday], but there were not too disciplined and they were not converting their goals. That made them to lose the second position for the U21 female, but the final we played [on Saturday] for the U18, the boys did their best but it was just not coming,” she told busybuddiesng.com.

Peter Phillips who coached the Kogi to first position in the U18 male category and third position in the U18 female category at the championships, told busybuddiesng.com that Kogi always performed well at handball tournanents because of a long tradition of government support and investments in purpose-built infrastructure at grassroots level.  

“We have been having the state government support. From 1992, the state government have supported us by building 3 stadia for handball in different locations and we have been producing players from schools so it has kept us going,” he said.

Head Coach of team Kwara Attanda Isiaka lamented the lack of adequate preparation afforded his team which he claimed prevented from putting up a much better outing than first place in the U21 female category and second place in the U21 male category. 

“We could have done better than this but we just had a short time for preparation,” he said.