Prof. Osunde (middle) flanked by Team FUT, Minna contingent and officials in a group photograph after the interactive session.
Now that the curtain on the 25th edition of the much talked about Nigeria University’s Games Association (NUGA) has come down after twelve days of gusto sporting spectacle, the Federal University of Technology, Minna contingent to the games returned back to Minna last weekend with their best medals haul in recent times.
The University contingent defied all odds to clinch 1 silver medal in Chess, and 4 bronze medals in badminton, Judo and Hockey (male and female) to finish in 19th position out of the fifty-seven Universities that participated at the biennial sports fiesta hosted by the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State.
FUT, Minna medals haul at the games is remarkable judging from the fact that the University finished ahead of many conventional universities who can boast of viable departments of Physical and Health Education on the medals table.
The games that was almost suspended by the NUGA Council owing to some logistical hitches and inability of the host university to complete some facilities meant for the games on campus later took centre stage after three days of delay across six different centres in the State and FCT; namely the host University’s Sports Complex provided sporting experience for spectators with football, basketball, volleyball and hockey, the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi hosted athletics event and handball while Vertia College, Makurdi hosted squash.
Other centres include: Mount Gabriel International College, Makurdi where Taekwondo and Judo took place, the Makurdi Sports Club hosted Lawn Tennis and the National Stadium, Abuja hosted swimming event.
Finally, the opening ceremony of the event took centre stage amidst pomp and utmost gaiety to the delight of fans and guests who witnessed the first ever NUGA games to be hosted by a specialized university. The participating universities brought panache to bear during the ceremonial march past courtesy of their artistic and theatrical display that left many fans at the stadium asking for more. FUT, Minna contingent were not left out as they colourfully hoisted the University flag and displayed other memorabilia to the delight of the Vice-Chancellor’s representative at the event, the former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) of the institution, Prof. Akim Osunde who could not hold back his joy as he stood to applaud the University’s contingent from his seat at the VIP Stand.
Before the opening ceremony, Prof. Osunde had earlier met with Team FUT, Minna contingent where he delivered the Vice-Chancellor’s message to the athletes and officials which centred on the need to be good ambassadors of the University and to win gold medals for the institution at the games.
Though, the gold medal eluded the University Contingent, the athletes gave their best in all the games they participated in and won fair play awards for the best behaved University in Hockey (male and female) and Handball.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, the Vice-Chancellor of the host University, Engr. Prof. Emmanuel Kucha stated that hosting the games was a dream come true to the institution, saying that NUGA games is one of the ways through which Nigerian universities are contributing to national development.
“NUGA games gather together Nigerian university students’ athletes who are given the opportunity to showcase their sporting talents outside the routines of classrooms, laboratories and other research centres in accordance with laid down rules. This is one way Nigerian universities have immensely contributed to national development using the medium of sports,” Prof. Kucha disclosed.
The games was declared open by the Executive Governor of Benue State, Mr. Samuel Ortom, represented by the Secretary to the State Government.
Road to the Medals
All hopes were on the University Male Handball team owing to their superlative performance at the zonal preliminaries hosted by the Federal University Dutse, Jigawa State. The team had painted the zonal event red with their breathtaking showing which culminated in the defeat of the zonal champions, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and another heavyweight in the zone- Bayero University, Kano.
The team took off from where they stopped at the zonal preliminaries with a commanding victory against the 2014 NUGA games champions, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The team defeated UNN 22-16 in their first match played at the famous Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi. The team’s second match was a 20- 0 walk over against Lagos State University (LASU). The Prof. Akanji’s boys later trounced University of Maiduguri 15-12 which was followed by another 20-15 victory over University of Uyo. In their last group match, the lads defeated Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ile. That explosive encounter to determine the group leader ended 17-10.
The stage was set for the semi-final and the Dr. Omotayo Alabi tutored side failed to deliver when it mattered most against Benue State University. The match ended 25-18 and FUT, Minna male handball team were condemned to vie for a bronze medal in the third place match. The boys gave their all to savage a medal irrespective of the colour but were outdone by Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ile again who had lost its semi-final match to Kogi State University, Anyigba.
The University’s first pair of silverware was won by the duo of Ene Abba and Aisha Ajayi in badminton (team event category). The lasses opened up the floodgate of medals as Deborah Joseph, a final year student in the department of Project Management Technology clinched another bronze medal for the University in Judo (Heavyweight category) to become the first ever student to win a medal for FUT, Minna in judo in their first outing at the NUGA games.
Another medal followed suit in hockey, it was a long walk to victory for both the male and female hockey teams. The male hockey team who were finalists at the last West Africa University Games (WAUG) championship hosted by the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 2015 started on a sound note as they defeated UNN team 1-0 in their first match. The coach Lawrence Umogbai side saw off Bayero University, Kano 2-1 in their second match and drew goalless against University of Maiduguri to top the group and advance to the semi-final stage.
The semi-final match was a mouth-watering encounter against NUGA games defending champions, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The match lived up to its pre-match billing as the two sides rewarded fans at the pitch with classic display, skills and dexterity. The boys lost 2-0 to the Great Ife boys and rounded off the event with another 1-0 win over UNN in the third place match. UNN had earlier lost 2-0 to University of Maiduguri in the second semi-final match. UNIMAID went ahead to defeat OAU in the final to end OAU’s 25 years dominance of NUGA games hockey event.
The University female hockey team who made their debut at the games stormed the event with so much aplomb and finesse. The team showed immense sense of composure and maturity to hold the host University to a goalless draw despite intimidation from their vociferous home fans at the stadium. The team lost its second match 5-0 against the much experienced UNN female team who are NUGA and WAUG champions. The Lionesses later trounced the host University 7-0 to top the group while FUT, Minna came second.
The team held one of the NUGA games favourites, University of Benin to a goalless draw and later lost 2-0 no thanks to the dreaded penalty shout out. The girls bounced back from their defeat in the semi-final to edge University of Maiduguri 1-0 in a tense penalty shout out after the match ended goalless in regulation time. The victory was a perfect reward for hardwork, commitment, dedication and zeal for the girls who only had less than two weeks to fine-tune preparations for the games.
The University’s only silver medal at the games was won by Segun Saliu, a master’s student in the department of Telecommunication Engineering and a staff of the University in chess individual event.
Other sports that the University participated in at the NUGA games were; Squash, Lawn Tennis, Athletics (Long jump and Pole vault), Taekwondo, Chess and Badminton.
Appraising the University’s performance at the games on arrival, the Chairman, University Sports Committee, Prof. Abdulmojeed Ijaiya expressed joy with the performance of the University contingent at the games, saying that the athletes competed fairly in line with the rules and regulations of the games.
Prof. Ijaiya stated that all the University athletes gave their best at the games despite competing against many experienced state and national athletes, adding that there is hope for FUT, Minna in sports.
The former Calabar Rovers goal poacher, however attributed the University medal haul to the students’ unrest that disrupted training activities and the ongoing examinations that prevented some students from participating in the games.
On whether FUT, Minna can host the NUGA games, his response was: “Based on what Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi did, FUT, Minna can confidently host the NUGA games because we have world class sporting facilities on ground more than the host University.”
He further appreciated the University’s Management for providing the enabling environment for sports to thrive in FUT, Minna.
Though, other University athletes could not make it to the podium to get medals but their commitment and passion cannot be questioned because they gave everything just to be part of the games and above all to win medals for the University. The feat recorded by FUT, Minna in NUGA games and other sporting events in recent times is a sign that the University has truly established itself as a hub and powerhouse in sports in Nigeria. While we await the official medal presentation to the athletes by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof. Musbau Adewumi Akanji, FNSBMB, FAS on a date to be announced soon, the athletes can beat their chests that they were good ambassadors of the University at the games and their consolations will lay in the age long saying that Olympic Games is not all about winning but participation. Congratulations to Team FUT, Minna and Akwanba!