You might mistakenly be thinking that rivalry between Super League clubs is mainly restricted to the Pennines, in the North of England. But no; the battle between Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity has recently taken on an international dimension – in Nigeria.
The newly established Nigerian Rugby League is set to launch its inaugural domestic competition this summer. Leeds Rhinos already have representation in Nigeria, in the form of their partner club, the Lagos Rhinos. But so too, now, do Wakefield Trinity, with the club having joined in partnership with Eko Trinity, the latest entrant into the Nigeria Rugby league domestic competition.
So, while this may come as surprise to some, a new (Eco) Trinity may be challenging (Lagos) Rhinos, come Grand Final time .
This new partnership with Eco Trinity aill see Wakefield working alongside the Nigerian community, both within Wakefield itself and by travelling to Nigeria. Wakefield plans to send ambassadors from the club to spend a fortnight in rural Nigeria, holding training camps to introduce the population to Rugby League.
It is a bold commitment by Wakefield to the game in Nigeria, with the end goal being to create a credible senior competition, so the Nigerian public can see Rugby League as a viable alternative spectator sport to Soccer. The masses of Manchester United and Arsenal fans among Nigeria’s sports-mad population of nearly 200 million would be a great audience to broadcast UK Super League to, if they could once be tempted to watch it. And one of the main selling points for Rugby League is its initial, apparent simplicity.
“We have been watching the progress made in Nigeria, through the work of Ade Adebisi and a group of determined partners,” explained Wakefield Trinity general manager, Craig Shepherd. “There is a real opportunity there, for us to take Rugby League to an African nation that prioritises sport.
“Given the athleticism of Rugby League, I’m optimistic that the community in Lagos will get behind Eko Trinity and turn out in numbers. Our Young Trustees will work hard on ‘Project Eko’ to raise the aspirations of young people in Lagos, and also in the local Nigerian Community here in Wakefield and surrounding regions.
“We have recruited the support of kit supplier, GDZ Sports, who will donate the surplus from each Eko Trinity shirt directly to the project, and with the help of Ade and his team we will deliver coaching clinics, and make public appearances at schools and community organisations where we can introduce Rugby League into the hearts and minds of the Lagos communities.”
Ade Abisi, Vice Chairman and General Manager of Nigeria Rugby League also commented.
“I am really excited that Wakefield Trinity has decided to come onboard with us,” he said. “For me it shows that hard work and dedication can pay off.
“I have devoted the past two years to this project and I am happy that things are now coming together. The partnerships we are building all over the world will not only be great for the game of Rugby League in Nigeria, they will great for rugby League in Africa.
“When this project started, we set ourselves a very ambitious goal – to qualify for the World Cup in 2025. I think that with the partnerships we have since acquired, we are hopefully on the way to achieving that.
“For me however, this is not just about having great partnerships with all these different clubs and sporting organisations.
“I also need to find ways in which we can promote awareness of sickle cell anaemia, and help to get rid of the stigma that surrounds both it, and the sickle cell sufferer. I have a passion to try and make a better life for sickle cell anaemia sufferers, both in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole.
“We are currently engaging with a Global company that is supplying a first-of-its-kind in the world, point-of-care, medical diagnostic device to test for Sickle Cell Anaemia. The test is rapid and accurate, does not need a reader for results, is principle lateral immunoassay, can be used in low resource environments, and is low cost relative to traditional laboratory tests.
“The earlier we detect sickle cell anaemia the earlier we can find a solution for it.”