Rugby fans in Edo and adjourning states are in for an exciting time as a rugby tournament for secondary schools will be launched on December 1, 2018.
The tournament to be known as the Ehibam Schools Rugby Tournament is being jointly organized by the Edo State Rugby Association and the Ehibam Griefshare Foundation.
Ntiense Williams, Head Coach of the Edo State Rugby Association, who disclosed this to NewsAllround, said the tournament, which will be launched at Emotan College ground from 10 am to 2 pm, and which kick off fully in 2019, will have two Sevens Rugby matches for boys and girls played to add colour to the occasion.
Williams said players for the matches will be drawn from schools which have been involved in rugby in the state. He said other activities lined up for the day includes a talk on wellness, medical tests, and counselling by professional health workers for a preventive and healthy lifestyle for the society and mostly for those involved in rugby and sports in general.
He added that Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shuaibu, who are taking sports to a new level with their commitment and investment, will grace the event alongside leading Edo sons and daughters.
Pastor Dupe Irele, the founder of the Ehimare Foundation, said the foundation was set up two years ago in memory of her son, Ehiseme Osarieme Alonge, who died at 35 years in England on his way home from work. She said her son, fondly called Ehi by friends and admirers, was a dedicated rugby player and coach who coached children in his neighbourhood while playing regularly for his local rugby club, the Kilburn Cosmos RFC.
“The Foundation, which is primarily involved in assisting grieving families to overcome the pain of loss has decided to give back to society through Ehi’s love – “Rugby” and what better place to start than his hometown of Edo State”, Pastor Irele said.
Giving a background to the foundation’s involvement with the Edo Rugby Association, Irele said the foundation was introduced to Williams, who in addition to being the head coach of Edo Rugby is also the Technical Director of the Nigerian Rugby Federation, by Barrister Godwin Dudu-Orumen, chairman of the Edo State Sports Commission (ESSC).
“Since we were introduced to Mr. Ntiense Williams, popularly known as “Mr. Rugby” in Nigeria, he has been so fantastic in helping and guiding us through the planning of this event and the sport of rugby, which is so fast growing in the country. The Foundation is therefore proud to be involved with this project in memory of our son, Ehi.”
“After the formal launch of a Rugby Tournament this year on his birthday being 01 December, we hope to the scale it up to an annual Schools Rugby Tournament in his memory to be known as “Ehibam Schools Rugby Tournament” and it could possibly become a National event to promote the game of Rugby in Nigeria,” Irele said.
She said the foundation had come to Edo, the home of her late son with the hope of helping to revive and reposition the state as a rugby-loving state in Nigeria. She said in due course, the foundation will be talking with his Kilburn Cosmos Rugby Club side to also assist and possibly visit Nigeria and play some international club friendly rugby matches especially in Edo State and in the flagship national rugby tournament.
Responding to the remarks of Irele, Williams noted:
“We are very delighted to have this surprise package from Ehibam Griefshare Foundation to float a Schools Rugby Tournament in Edo State. We look forward to partnering with them towards making Edo State a household name and a tourist destination in Rugby through our ongoing “Catch-Them-Young Schools Rugby Project”.
For his part, Edo State Commission boss, Barrister Dudu-Orumen who in the two months he has been in the saddle has initiated reforms in Sports in the state, thanked the foundation for its decision to add value to rugby in Edo State by sponsoring a rugby tournament for schools.
“We sincerely thank the Ehibam Griefshare Foundation for reposing the confidence in the game of Rugby, which is one of the sports for which Edo state is renowned.
A lot of Edo indigenes at home and in the Diaspora are making waves in the game. We will like to call on other well-meaning individuals and corporate bodies to come and join forces with us towards developing sports in Edo State”.
Edo State is leading force in Rugby in Nigeria, The sport was introduced into the state by Williams in the build-up to the 2006 National Sports Festival in Ogun State tagged the “Gateway Games”. The state won four of the six gold medals available with a bronze medal in tow.
The Schools Rugby Program has been running since 2014 in twelve Schools in Benin metropolis on self-sponsorship by coaches, and the assistance of the Chairman of the Edo State Rugby Association Arc. Frank Evbuomwan, and some board members.