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How HiFL and Stanbic IBTC created remarkable virtual football experience amid Covid-19 lockdown

It’s no longer news that the Higher Institutions Football League (HiFL) has been a breath of fresh air for the local sports. Indeed, since its advent in 2018, it has taken sports in the land and collegiate football to be to laudable heights with its innovative twists and new dimensions that will surely continue to change how people view its relevance to sports development in Nigeria going into the future. The needed growth in grassroots sports development can only be attained when adequate resources are efficiently mobilized in order to sustain its impact and engender needed results. The expected outcomes are especially in terms of the number and quality of athletes and sports stakeholders springing up in the country and representing at international competitions.

PACE Sports & Entertainment Marketing, organisers of the Higher Institutions Football League, HiFL has been at the forefront since 2018, opening a plethora of opportunities for resources to be mobilized for grassroots sports development culminating in its current level of remarkable success in conjunction with its enviable list of partners including industry regulators and corporates such as Stanbic IBTC.

Stanbic IBTC’s support for HiFL is helping to change the face of collegiate football in Nigeria with the introduction of the virtual invitational games. The leading financial services group remains keen in its determination to help grow and develop a vibrant and productive youth population.

This is in an era where just a handful of corporate bodies have seen the need to muster much required backing for sports of any kind in the country. Notably, Stanbic IBTC, HiFL’s marquee sponsor saw the futuristic opportunities inherent in developing grassroots sports activities and has keyed in with HiFL to keep the games running and the entertainment livelier.

Stanbic IBTC’s collaboration with HiFL is changing the face of sports entertainment with the advent of the e-invitational football tournament. With new pedestals occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the league has briefly switched the field battles into console wars as it features a selection of the finest gamers in universities across Nigeria.

The foremost financial service group brought fun and glitz to the virtual football tournament through the Stanbic IBTC @ease wallet. The promotional activations gave fans the opportunity to win delightful giveaways for watching and joining the conversations on the final match of the e-invitational on social media. The Stanbic IBTC @ease wallet entails the use of an electronic wallet designed to meet the lifestyle needs of Nigerians, especially the unbanked, underbanked and multi-banked using a unique combination of technology and agent network.  This campaign has always given Nigerian collegiate football fans the opportunity to reap benefits that come with the @ease wallet as well as giveaways during HiFL events. A case in point is the 2019 SuperFour matches at the Agege Township stadium where fans won major prizes simply by dialling *909# and following the prompts.

The Chief Executive Officer – Stanbic IBTC, Yinka Sanni believes that HiFL’s past editions have set a standard that is commendable and easy to relate with as the company’s partners while prioritising its Corporate Social Investment (CSI) programmes that focus on youth-centred activities. The group also supports access to inclusive, quality education and the promotion of lifelong learning opportunities. This has helped the group to continue to focus its support in Africa by harnessing the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution while keeping faith with developmental efforts in concentrated sectors.

“As a company, one of our objectives is to engage the youth through initiatives, which will contribute to talent moulding and character-building. We have committed in long term to this project because we sincerely believe it is much aligned with what we do – creating viable opportunities and moving people and businesses forward”, Mr Sanni opined.

Meanwhile, over the past few weeks HiFL made staying indoors more interesting in the wake of the lockdown directives prompted by the pandemic.  The invitational e-tournament with #PlayIndoors, being the first of its kind in sports entertainment in Nigeria comes with an essence of presenting the finest gamers across these eight universities as part of efforts to keep people entertained while keeping safe at home.

These gamers who represented their respective schools in a group of eight tournament used football clubs in the top flight of the Spanish League, La Liga against opposing collegiate teams. There is little doubt that sports enthusiasts are familiar with invitational tournaments but adopting it to gaming is a new phenomenon in sporting experience in Nigeria. This whole new experience that the organisers and sponsors of HiFL e-invitational brought to the front burner indicates that the need to keep sporting activities alive in tertiary institutions in Nigeria can indeed be addressed. With the right sponsorship mind-set, many inadequacies can easily be managed.

The tournament, also proudly supported by Bold Drinks in a strategic partnership with HiFL harnessed the opportunity that the lockdown provided to contribute to the growth of the e-Sports industry in the country.

The tournament, in its knockout-style elimination climaxed to Super Four Finals. The winners in the group of eight eventually tussled for the kings of the collegiate e-footy crown. Lead City Gladiators, represented by Arogz outlasted all comers to emerge as champions after defeating FUTA Tigers 5 – 4 on penalties after the thrilling match ended one goal apiece after extra time.

UI Pioneers claimed the last podium spot in the maiden tournament after its triumph over DELSU Titans two goals to nil in the third-place match.

The e-invitational tourney featured the most dexterous gamers from the invited tertiary institutions who competed from the comfort of their homes while they strictly adhered to government directive on staying at home providing succour and entertainment to everyone as they observed social distancing. Proving once again that sports is a useful panacea for social ills.

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