By Ime Bassey
As the Nigeria Hockey Federation (NHF) Top 4 Championship tagged Adekunle Kukoyi Cup kicks off today at the hockey pitches of the National Stadium, defending champions in the male category, Yobe Desert Warriors arrived with title in view.
The team which is led by former international and Team Manager, Ismael Jaiyeola said they are determined to start the season with a clean record.
Speaking a cross section of newsmen, Jaiyeola stated that, “Determination and dedication gave us victory in Abuja and we still have it in abundance. The state government is fully in support of these teams.”
Yobe Desert Warriors was champion of the 2011 International Energy Insurance (IEI) Hockey Premier League, defeating Niger Flickers in the thrilling male event final that was decided by penalty shootout. Jaiyeola is of the opinion that they would like to leave Lagos with the Top 4 trophy and prove to others that last year’s victory was not a fluke.
In the meantime, one of the officials of Union Bank of Lagos, Adesina Fagunwa has said that they are battle ready for the tournament as they have trained hard in readiness for the Top 4 and ready to go.
The maiden championship is named after the former NHF president, Adekunle Kukoyi who passed away 10 years ago to be competed for by the top 4 male and female teams in the country.
Patrick Ukah, President of NHF revealed that an umpire/judges clinic would hold in the course of the tournament while decorated hockey technical man, Bar. Walter Imoedemhe is in charge as the Technical Director of the tournament, the umpire manager is Bashir Mabudi and assistant umpire manager is Salisu Jabbo.
Teams expected to take part in the tournament includes Niger Flickers, Plateau Tigers and Union Bank for the male category while Bayelsa Queens, Imo Heartlands, Yobe Desert Queens and Plateau Queens will slug it out in the female category.
The tournament is the NHF first this season and would also serve as dress rehearsal for the forthcoming National Sports Festival to be hosted by Lagos State.