BY DUSTAN AGHEDO, Lagos
The stage is set for the knockout rounds of the 2021 Higher Institutions Football League (HIFL) as the qualified varsity teams battle it out in the round of 16 games scheduled to commence in July.
The draws which was done Friday night in Lagos witnessed the four seeded teams consisting defending champions, University of Calabar’s UNICAL Malabites; 2019 runner-up, UAM Tillers of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi; UNILORIN Warriors representing the University of Ilorin and OAU Giants from the Obafemi Awolowo University, drawn into four Pots (A – D).
Other teams were each randomly picked to complete the groups of the Pots, where two teams in a group play a two-leg tie knockout format to advance to the quarter finals.
From the resulting table, AAUA Luminaries will play OAU Giants, FUTA Tigers to tackle UNILAG Marines, LAUTECH Hunters to attempt to hunt down the FUTMINNA Transformers while KSU Steelers will be the underdog against UNILORIN Warriors, in the first week encounter.
In arguably the biggest knockout tie for second week, UNIBEN Royals will lock horns against defending champion, UNICAL Malabites, as IAUE Minders tackle UNN Lions, ABU Nobles to trade tackles with UAM Tillers in another mouthwatering clash, while BUK Stallions slugs it out with UNIMAID Desert Warriors.
Speaking at the draws, Director, PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing Limited, Sola Fijabi acknowledged the efforts of all participating schools and encouraged them to maintain their sportsmanlike conduct as the games go on.
“We are now at a very exciting stage of the league. What was witnessed during the qualifiers was the tip of the iceberg. The schools are ready and what we assured lovers of collegiate sports is double excitement. We appreciate the support of NUGA and our sponsors Nivea Men and Minimie for their trust in HiFL as we deliver value to all our stakeholders,” Fijabi said.
He added that “the year 2020 allowed us to restrategise in line with the current realities. We have monitored the gradual reopening of the sporting activities to fans and we have also put in place adequate measures to ensure compliance with the protocols. We are not wavering on our promise to continue to create the best of collegiate football that will produce and expose some of Nigeria’s finest talents to the international sporting community.”
In his reaction, President of the Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA), Prof Stephen Hamafyelto, said NUGA and its affiliate universities are fully ready for the showpiece.
“We have come far with Pace Sports and HiFL. It is a partnership that we cherish because it brought a new dimension to our we organise collegiate sports in this part of the world. We are hopeful that this season will record more successes as we provide an unforgettable experience to the fans”. Matches in the round of 16 will commence in July.