In this exclusive chat, the Head Coach of Edo State Rugby Mr Williams Ntiense shared his view with Joseph Odoekwu of SPORTS INTELLIGENCE MAGAZINE (simag.com.ng) on Rugby’s sensational return to the 20th National Sports Festival tagged Edo 2020. He is optimistic that Rugby has come to stay and bares his mind about the future. The excerpt reads.
Congrats sir on the return of Rugby to the National Sports Festival how do you feel?
I feel very elated and pleased that our effort to have Rugby at the NSF since 2009 has paid off. Rugby is back as a medal event at the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival. Before now, we have been approaching previous hosts to add Rugby as one of the 5 optional Sports, but all efforts proved abortive. The reason for their refusal is because its a team sports. Some states wants sports that will deal with individual sports and hope to win multiple medals through it, rather than team sports.
What made the case of Edo 2020 different, what did Rugby offer that led to its inclusion in the NSF?
First, the feats accomplished by Edo in Rugby stood for us. Edo won an unprecedented 4 Gold Medals from the available 6 Gold Medals in the 2006 edition, and this was a selling point for us. Second, the newly appointed Chairman of the Edo State Sports Commission Mr Godwin Dudu-Orumen designed a program to tap on the wealth of experience of Edo indigenes whose main sporting trust is in power sports. Coincidentally, rugby fits well into that program as it can be seen in the results recorded so far by the Edo team.
What then becomes the fate of Rugby in the future when another state that is not Rugby friendly is going to host?
Thank you very much. The Rugby Federation must not leave any stone unturned. We need to approach the Ministry of Sports for Rugby to be dully integrated into the National Sports Festival as permanent event. Rugby is now an Olympic medal winning Sports and that was actually the criteria that led to its inclusion in the Kada 2009 Games.
But what actually went wrong later on that led to its removal from the NSF?
Nothing was wrong. There was a new rule after the Kada 2009 Games that the next Games to be hosted by Rivers will be a selected event just like major international tournaments like All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympics. Rugby was not an Olympic Sports in 2009 so we were affected. We became an Olympic Sports in 2016 and that was why I stated earlier that Rugby Federation need to approach the Sports ministry as a permanent event since we are now an Olympic Medal winning event.
Do you think Rugby will be a source of medal for Nigeria at the Olympics?
Certainly. The Olympic event is Seven Rugby which is more suitable to Nigeria. Kenya in Africa and Fiji on the World Stage are champions and yet not conventional Rugby playing nations. Once we get ourselves together, backed with ample technical support and funding, Nigeria will become a world beater in the nearest future.
But some Nigerians who watch Rugby believe its too physical and rough, what do you say about this?
It may look that way and it is traditionally referred to as “Rough Game Played by Gentlemen”. But there are rules and regulations as well as safety nets, which does not give room for hooliganism. Besides, Rugby has not recorded any major injury or death in recent years and it is dope free.
Generally, funding has been a major challenge for most sports in Nigeria, how is Rugby coping or is Rugby not affected?
We are actually the most affected because we don’t even get any fund from the Sports Ministry like some sports do. We have been running all our programmes from self sponsorship and support from well wishers who come around to encourage us. I must not fail to thank Mr. Kelechi Mbagwu, the President of Nigeria Rugby Federation. He has contributed immensely towards the sponsorship of most Rugby’s programmes nationwide. We are also using this medium to appeal for sponsorship from well-meaning individuals and corporate bodies to come to our aid. Rugby’s sponsorship gets more mileage because the media is very sympathetic to us and have been helping to publicize our program towards making rugby a house-hold name in Nigeria in the shortest time.
Thank you very much sir for making out time to talk with us.
You are very welcome my brother. God bless.