LAGOS – The draws for the group stages of the 2019 edition of the Higher Institutions Football League (HiFL) which featured a record 32 teams were held, Friday, in Lagos. Participating teams were placed in eight groups of four teams with last season’s winners UAM Millers drawn in Group H while runners up UNICAL Malabites will play in Group C.
The event which had sports pundits, school administrations, captains of industry and other football enthusiasts in attendance also witnessed the unveiling of the new team jerseys and logos for all 32 participating teams from the Sahel and Coastal divisions.
The 32 participating teams comprise the four teams that made the Super 4 last season with a further 24 teams making the group stages from the qualifying campaign held across the six geopolitical zones of the country. Organisers awarded wild cards to another four teams who have “a history of sports excellence” to complete the record number of participants.
The Group games starts on June 18 and will be played over 21 weeks. The top two teams from each group qualify for the Round of 16 which will be played in a return leg elimination as would the quarterfinals. Four teams will make the Super Four grand finale which will be held at the Agege Township Stadium, Lagos.
Organisers of the HiFL, PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing who say the 2019 edition of the tournament will be “bigger, better and bolder”, also introduced a number of other innovations which they say builds and improves on the first edition of the league which held last year.
Besides doubling the number of participating teams from sixteen to thirty-two for the 2019 edition of the HiFL, group stages have also been introduced for the first time which adds more matchdays to the tournament which had previously been competed on the basis of home and away straight knock-outs.
In a departure from last season, all group stage matches will be held in the eight host institutions which were automatically seeded for the draws. The seeded teams were selected to host their respective group stage matches to aid logistics and because they met “the terrain, structure, and standards that HiFL demands” according to Director of Strategy Olamide Adeyemo.
Director of PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing, Mr. Sola Fijabi said the new tweaks to the format of the HiFL were carried out in order 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.
Mr. Fijabi also highlighted the role that sponsors of the HiFL including StanbicIBTC with whom they recently signed a five-year partnership deal continue to play in the growth of the league.
“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,” Fijabi said.
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 inaugural edition of the HiFL was won by the UAM Tillers from the University of Agriculture Makurdi who were rewarded with scholarships by the University’s management. They defeated the UNICAL Malabites 5-4 on penalties to lift the trophy at the Agege Stadium, Lagos.
The 2018 edition of the HiFL also led to the launch of professional careers for two breakout stars Emmanuel Ogbole and Ebuka David Odenigbo who were snapped up by Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) sides Nasarawa United and Kano Pillars respectively. Odenigbo is currently involved with Pillars in the 2018/2019 NPFL Championship Playoffs and scored in their 2-2 post-season opener against Akwa United.
2019 HIGHER INSTITUTIONS FOOTBALL LEAGUE GROUP STAGE DRAWS
|UNILAG Marines [Hosts]|
|UI Pioneers [Hosts]|
|UNIUYO Tuskites [Hosts]|
|MOUAU Bloomers [Hosts]|
|UNIBEN Royals [Hosts]|
|NILE Rovers [Hosts]|
|ABU Nobles [Nobles]|
|UNIMAID Dessert Warriors|
|BUT Stallions [Hosts]|