200 Male and Female Rugby players alongside 16 Match Officials with the recognised Secretary General Mr James Eakyns and Technical Director Ntiense Williams of the Rugby Federation alongside two Board Members (Mr Patrick Ibeh & Mr Ismaila Jayeola) and the Female Committee member in Rugby Afrique Princes Ugonwaezeh-Agugo participated at the just concluded 20th edition of the National Sports Festival tagged Edo 2020 held in Benin City the capital of Edo State at the first dedicated lush green Rugby Pitch in Edo State based at Edo Boys High School, Adolor, Benin City from 2 – 14 April 2021.
The journey started immediately after the 19th edition which was held in Abuja the Federal Capital City in 2018 when Edo State led by the Chairman of the Sports Commission Barrister Godwin Dudu Orumen presented, defended and won the bid on behalf Edo State Government with the hosting rights awarded by the Ministry of Youth & Sports Development to the Governor of Edo State Mr Godwin Obaseki at the colourful closing ceremony of the National Sports Festival.
The man popularly called “Mr Rugby” Obong Ntiense Williams an employee of the Edo State Sports Commission who accompanied the Chairman for monitoring of Edo State Athletes since Rugby was not participating made a passionate appeal to the Chairman of the Sports Commission to help revive Rugby in Nigeria by including the Sports as one of the five “Optional Sports” which is the prerogative of the host state and he also guaranteed to win medals for the State. Rugby last featured in the Nigerian version of the Olympics twelve years ago at the Kada Games held in 2009. The rest is history now as the dream was finally achieved.
Six States finally featured at the Rugby event namely Kano, Plateau, Delta, Ogun, Akwa Ibom, and the host Edo State, with Delta & Edo fielding both Male and Female teams respectively. Unfortunately, Abia & Lagos State dropped their Rugby team at the last minute due to lack of funds, whilst Kaduna, and Rivers State Rugby teams were dropped due to the organisers directive to reduce the team sports from two per zone to one per zone. Thus unfortunately 6 teams couldn’t make it as initially qualified.
The games which suffered several postponements due to the Covid 19 pandemic finally held under strict guidelines and compliance with about eight thousand Athletes and Officials in 37 Sporting desciplines over a period of two weeks, saw the defending champion Delta State winning yet again against the host and sister state Edo.
Meanwhile, in the Rugby Event, Edo State carried the day in both Male & Female category, whilst Delta State placed 2nd. Kano & Plateau from the North came 3rd & 4th respectively, whilst Ogun and newest entrant and baby of Nigerian Rugby, Akwa Ibom State placed 5th & 6th respectively.
Herewith the overall Medals Table for Rugby at the 20th National Sports Festival tagged Edo 2020.
OVERALL MEN RUGBY TABLE
1. EDO. = 1 GOLD, 1 SILVER & 1 BRONZE
2. KANO = 1 GOLD & 1 SILVER
3. DELTA = 1 GOLD, & 2 BRONZE
4. PLATEAU = 1 SILVER
OVERALL FEMALE RUGBY TABLE
1. EDO = 2 GOLD & 1 BRONZE
2. DELTA = 1 GOLD, 1 SILVER & 1 BRONZE
3. OGUN = 1 SILVER
4. AKWA IBOM = 2 BRONZE
EDO STATE IS OVERALL WINNERS OF THE RUGBY EVENT AT THE 20TH NATIONAL SPORTS FESTIVAL TAGGED EDO 2020 WITH 3 GOLD, 1 SILVER & 2 BRONZE MEDALS
DELTA STATE CAME SECOND WITH 2 GOLD, 1 SILVER & 3 BRONZE, WHILE KANO CAME 3RD WITH 1 GOLD & 1 SILVER MEDALS
PLATEAU & OGUN CAME 4TH & 5TH RESPECTIVELY WITH 1 SILVER EACH AND THE NEWEST RUGBY BABY AKWA IBOM STATE HAD 2 BRONZE MEDALS RESPECTIVELY.
We will like to sincerely thank the sports loving and energetic Chairman of the Local Organizing Committee who is also the Vice Chairman of the Main Organizing Committee and Deputy Governor of Edo State Rt Hon.Comrade Philip Shaibu who gave Rugby the much needed boost towards ensuring that the Female event eventually became scoring at the last minute.
We are sincerely indebted to our team members, Coaches and Officials of all the participating teams, especially Coach Angulu Sulymon who was the Tournament Manager, Chief Falilat Ogunkoya from Ogun State, Edo State Directors and especially the Director Technical Mr Charity Igbinosa for believing in the Rugby project which delivered as expected. There was prompt and efficient medical coverage throughout with even a lecture on preventions of common injuries delivered before the start of the event.
We also thank those who tried endlessly to no avail to scortle the return of Rugby to the National Sports Festival. It only further spored us on towards hosting one of the best event in Rugby history in Nigeria.
This has now set the ball rolling for the normal Rugby activities which has been none existence since December 2019 just before the Covid 19 Pandemic took over the landscape of sports around the world.
Now the ball is in the courts of Delta State for the hosting of the 21st edition of the Nigerian Olympics next year by God’s grace and it beholds upon the leadership of the Rugby Federation to ensure that the game returns as one of the regular sports and not an optional sports.
The National Sports Festival is a veritable tool for the spreading and development of Rugby around the country with it’s unique multi medals of 3 Gold in both male and female. During this event, we have received inquiries from some states to come and introduce the beautiful game of Rugby especially from the North West & North Eastern States.
Technical Director & “Mr Rugby”