The prestigious 2019 UNICEF Charity Shield polo tourney climaxed in a cliff-hanging triumph for Abuja based Rubicon, Haske & Williams and Fifth Chukker teams as they emerged champions, winning the Charity Shield, Access Bank Cup, Usman Dantata Cup and UNICEF Cup respectively.
The tournament consisted of 15 teams with players coming from as far as Argentina and South Africa and top Nigerian players saw three great finals in the low, medium and high-goal categories. All the fiercely contested finals which ended with narrow victories were described polo buffs as some of the most in exciting finals of the Access Bank UNICEF Charity Shield polo series.
A ten million Naira additional cash donation by the sole sponsors, Access Bank, a special Children Day celebration and royal participations of the Lamido Adamawa, Emirs of Zaria, Ningi, Lere kingdoms highlighted the prestigious 2019 UNICEF Charity Polo Tournament that came to a flourishing climax Sunday at the Fifth Chukker Polo & Country Resort in Kaduna.
Since its inauguration, Access Bank and Fifth Chukker Polo &Country Resort in Kaduna have raised over a hundred million (N100,000,000) for UNICEF in support of its projects in aid of the education and wellbeing of vulnerable Children in Kaduna. That commitment was further deepens this year, with the provision of a new sixty block classrooms complex by the partnership.
Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank Plc, Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe who made the donation in support of campaign against HIV/AIDS pandemic among Nigerian children, said that the bank is maintaining its yearly donation of N10m to sustain UNICEF towards its projects for orphans and vulnerable children.
“We have been working in Kaduna, in collaboration with Fifth Chukker Polo & Country Resort and UNICEF to elevate quality of lives. We need to do a lot more in support of these orphans and vulnerable children to enable them look forward to a better tomorrow,” the Access Bank boss added.
Abuja Rubicon who won the UNICEF Charity Shield Cup last year, were clearly the team to beat, but it was not an easy task as debuting Malcomines team from Jos almost turned their outsiders rating into glittering gold, as the first debutant to win the high stakes Charity Shield tile on first attempt.
Team Rubicon Senator Hadi Sirika, Idris Badmasi, Pochino Bourdoui, and hit-man, Santiago Donovan, made quick work of Team STL in their opening game, before running into Malcomines brick wall parading (Hamisu Buba, Bello Buba, Diego White and Andrea Crespo in their final clash that was decided over two days, before a capacity crowd at the foremost Fifth Chukker Polo & Country Club in Kaduna.
Malcomines warriors who had earlier set aside former champions, Fifth Chukker 9-5 in a sensational opening game match, were trailing 6-0 to Rubicon in the opening chukka of the tense and fierce final. Stint by the huge margin, the Jos miners fought back to 8-11 deficits in the fourth chukka, before the rains forced the final to the second day.
The left over final was an explosive duel as Malcomines fought back to a possible upset, with the final bell stooping their equalizer on the line, thus rescuing Rubicon from an embarrassing defeat, as the Abuja based side held on to win 14-13.
The jinx that was broken last year has finally been laid to a permanent rest…” screams an overjoyed Rubicon patron, Senator Hadi Sirika moments after umpires Dozie and Pascual blew the final whistle.
The Aviation Minister described the successful title defense as a euphoric feeling having retained the biggest prize on the year the continental polo festival was marking its sixteenth year of competition.
Malcomines Patron, Murtala Laushi and his warriors broke the final match jinx by any debuting team, were hailed for their fighting spirits by the capacity crowd of teeming polo buffs who witnessed the adrenaline rush two chukkas continuation final.
“It was a nice final game. We may have lost the cup, but I’m really proud of my players and our fans across the country and beyond who stood by us throughout the campaign. While I congratulate the winners, I promise our fans better performance next year,” Laushi assured.
Reputed for its competition and excitement, the charity event thrilled to its grand finale with the Access Bank Cup final where Rubicon (2) secured a nail biting 61/2-6 narrow victory win against Team STL 11-71/2 in final game, to earn their second major charity polo title.
Other winners of the week long polo fiesta revered as one the biggest charity polo in the world, include the ambitious Haske & Williams team that handed their Dattaku opponents a thumping 61/2-1 defeat in UNICEF Cup final game, to win their first ever major charity polo title.
Home fans favorites, Fifth Chukker team made the annual fiesta more memorable for their teeming supporters, outclassing a crowded field of nine teams and Tila Farms from Kaduna in another epic final, to win the Usman Dantata Cup.
Wigwe, who cheered every second of the fiercely contested final games, led Chief Host, Adamu Atta and other top dignitaries, to present prizes to the winners and the runners-ups in a colourful prize presentation ceremony.
The Nigerian edition of the 2019 charity polo extravaganza that pitted 15 teams jostling for honours in four major cups categories is the first phase of the series that will climax in Europe with the Access Bank Charity Shield Polo Day in London.