It was a grand finale to reckon with at the recently concluded 10th edition of the Maritime Cup competition in Lagos. The event turned out to be a huge gathering of maritime industry stakeholders, leaders and workers cutting across various cadres. The two-week event was held from September 25 to October 9, 2018. At the end of the tournament, Team NPA aka Hadiza Warriors conquered all other teams to emerge winners of the 2018 Maritime Cup.
The Hadiza Warriors defeated the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to emerge winner of the 2018 edition of the Annual Ships & Ports Maritime Cup Competition.
The Hadiza Warriors’ Maritime Cup victory did not come on a platter of gold as the players and their handlers had to work really hard to earn it. The team booked its semi-final ticket by coming second in Group B with 6 points after winning their opening match against the Tincan Island Container Terminal (TICT) 6-0; lost 0-3 to Customs and defeated the Certified Institute of Shipping (CIS) 2-0. The team went on to qualify for the final match of the prestigious and highly competitive tournament after a hard won victory over 2009 champions, the Nigerian Navy.The match, which ended 1-1 at regulation time, was decided on penalty kicks with the Hadiza Warriors triumphing 5-4.
NPA’s final match opponent, NIMASA, fondly called the Dakuku Bombers also fought hard to become runners up of the tournament. The Dakuku Bombers secured their semi-final berth by coming second in Group Ahaving played a 2-2 draw with Navy; lost 3-5 to Josephdam Port Services (JPS) and defeated Apapa Bulk Terminal (ABTL) 3-0. The NIMASA team also defeated five times champions, Customs 5-4 in penalty shootout in the semi-final match played on Saturday October 6, 2018.
In the epic final match, the Hadiza Warriors defeated NIMASA 4-1after a tension soaked match to lift the coveted trophy for the first time since the competition started in 2009.Also, 2017 champions, the Nigeria Customs Service defeated the Nigerian Navy 4-0 to win the third place match.The matches played at the NPA Sports Ground Bode Thomas, Surulere, Lagos witnessed a large crowd and supporters of both teams.
NIMASA drew the first blood when they scored the opening goal in the 4th minute through Anderson Onye but the NPA team equalized in the 9th minute through Bashiru Yusuf, who also gave NPA the lead in the 20th minute. KabiruZakari netted the third goal for NPA in three minutes into the second half while Henry Nwosu sealed NIMASA’s fate with a 4th goal in the 36th minute of the second half.At the end of 90 minutes, NPA prevailed 4-1 in the action packed game. The NPA team qualified for the final match on Saturday after a hard won victory over 2009 champions, the Nigerian Navy.
The final match was kicked off by the President General, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade AdewaleAdeyanju, who lauded the Ships & Ports for conceiving and sustaining the competition over the years.
He promised that the union would support and also be part of the 2019 edition.
A total of 62 goals were scored in this year’s edition of the competition out of which AbubakarMikaili of Customs scored seven to become the highest goal scorer.
An initiative of Ships and Ports Communication, the Maritime Cup competition began in 2009 with the sole aim of promoting friendship and the spirit of camaraderie among stakeholders, thus uniting and growing the maritime industry. Prior to the birth of the Maritime Cup, there existed not a single sporting activity in Nigeria’s maritime industry to unite all maritime stakeholders both as participants and spectators.
According to the Coordinator of the Maritime Cup competition, Mrs. EuchariaUdoaka, the aim of the annual sporting event has been achieved with the level of participation so far over the years.
She said, “Three years ago, we had 16 teams participating in the competition. However, because of exigency of duty and changing priorities, we were able to put together eight teams this year. Of utmost importance though, is the quality of participation. Since we started the competition, we have seen various interest groups in the industry come together. Ordinarily, people who would possibly not have met in the course of duty are meeting annually on the football pitch due to the opportunity provided by the Maritime Cup competition. This is where you see a dockworker, relating with for instance, a director in the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, on the field of play and they relate like friends. This competition has forced out that kind of spirit and we intend to encourage it.”
The Maritime Cup began in 2009 on the sandy pitch of the Nigerian Navy Barracks, Ajegunlewith only four teams participating. The teams were the Nigeria Shippers’ Council, the Nigerian Navy, SifaxGroup and the Maritime Correspondents Association of Nigeria (MARCON). With the Navy emerging winner of this inaugural match, the number of participating teams doubled the following year, as the competition caught on to industry stakeholders. According to Udoaka, although stakeholders willingly signed up for the competition, it was not without its challenges. One major issue was the inability of some organizations in the industry to raise a 20-man football team for their participation. Some organisations were not constrained by staff strength, but simply were not willing to allow their employees stay away from work during the duration of the competition. Still team participation in the competition grew, so much so that as 2015, the number participating teams jumped to 16.
“The competition got a stage where every team wanted to win, going as far as engaging mercenaries to achieve their objective. That became a challenge and we had to insist on the rules; players must be employees of the organizations they play for, and such organisations must be core maritime industry based,” Udoaka said.
The 2018 Maritime Cup competition was unique by all standards as it truly lived up to its billing as an industry competition. The President General, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade AdewaleAdeyanju, captured this excitement while kicking-off the final match on Tuesday October 9, 2018.
Commending Ships & Ports for conceiving and sustaining the competition over the years, he hinted at the possibility of the MWUN also winning the coveted trophy as it intends to participate in the 2019 edition of the competition.
He said, “I am impressed with what I am seeing here today; the dockworkers and MWUN will be duly informed. Don’t be surprised if we win this cup next year. I want to seize the opportunity to thank the organizers and stakeholders. We want them to continue to encourage this type of competition. The organizers should also be supported; the MWUN will mobilize support for next year’s competition.”
The NPA team, the Hadiza Warriors, were obviously one of the most prepared teams in the tournament this year. NPA General Manager, Human Resources, MallamYahayaBukar, who also represented the NPA Managing Director, Ms. HadizaBala-Usman; and NPA General Manager, Land and Assets, Engr. Jatto Adams, led the NPA supporters club while the Executive Director Operations of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Engr. RotimiFasakin led at least three Deputy Directors and other senior workers of the agency to support the Dakuku Bombers, as the NIMASA team was fondly called.
Although they have consistently participated in the competition, this victory at the Maritime Cup final was NPA’s first. Visibly excited, NPA Football Coach, Okafor Emmanuel, was full of encomiums for the Managing Director of NPA, HadizaBalaUsman.
He said, “Our amiable Managing Director, HajiaHadizaBala-Usman, has given so much to sports. She has revived sports in the NPA. We are proud to say that to whom much is given, much is expected because we have delivered. We are thankful to Ships & Ports for making this competition happen because all work and no play makes jack a dull boy. We hope others who are yet to join the competition would participate next year so that by then we can have up to 20 teams in the tournament.”
The NPA coach is not alone in its excitement. Other industry stakeholders expressed similar sentiments. The Chairman, Maritime Cup Association of Team Managers, Charles Okaga,said the competition was “living up to expectations”.
He said, “The Maritime Cup has created liberation for people in the maritime sector and creates opportunities to network as well as to build friendliness. It has closed the gap in distance and communication that exist between industry practitioners. We had issues in the past of persons who were not core maritime practitioners but that problem has been dealt with so that the competition can achieve its core objective.”
With the trophy now in new hands, fresh breath has been infused into the competition and it is hoped that the NPA’s victory will encourage other teams to participate in the coming year.
The Chairman, Shipowners Forum and Board member of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mrs. Margaret Onyema-Orakwusi, while commenting on the success of the competition, described it as fantastic. She said the competition had become necessary for the promotion of the maritime industry especially to members of the public who were not familiar with it. She said, “It is all about friendship and the agencies coming together to know themselves. It has become an annual event that stakeholders in the industry all look forward to. I would like to see more participation; all the agencies, anybody that has anything of do with maritime activities should be involved. I would like to see more teams from the other agencies coming in for next year’s competition.”
With this victory, NPA has joined the league of Maritime Cup champions which includes the Nigerian Navy (2009), Micura Services (2010), Nigeria Customs Service (2011, 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017), the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF (2014) and the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA (2015).