Preparations are well under way in four countries signed up to contest the second ever, Middle East Africa Championship, to take place in Lagos, Nigeria, 2nd to 5th October, when the host nation, Nigeria will welcome fellow debutants, Ghana, and two returnee nations to the international arena, Cameroon and Morocco.
Nigeria’s domestic competition is set to kick off in a fortnight as a pre-cursor to the tournament. “We have held a number of successful national training sessions in the capital and in the North of the country,” noted Ade Abisi, vice president and general manager of Nigeria Rugby League (NRL).
“We look forward to being joined nearer kick-off by stars from overseas, like Tuoyo Egodo and Sadiq Adebiyi. Last weekend we partnered up with Ghana to put a team into the London 9s for the first time and it was very clear that we have the talent. On top of that, however, we have an experienced coach in Joe Mbu who will be able to blend it all together. We still have a lot of work to do, but all the building blocks are there.”
Farouk Prempeh, president of Ghana Rugby League, added: “The MEA Championships will help put Ghana on the rugby league map. Domestically we have just held a successful men’s club season involving four clubs, and the majority of our national team will come from there. Following the profile we will gain from this great event we know local participation will increase next year. We are very pleased with our preparations for the MEA Championship; it is adding to a very positive atmosphere for the sport in Ghana.”
Carol Manga, Cameroon Rugby League’s general manager explained that: “All the nations in the MEA Championship are going to gain in experience but for us it will be the first time in a big tournament. Our love, passion, sacrifices and commitments will be justified so we are hugely excited. Our head Coach Khalil Njoya is working closely with all the players, board members are tirelessly undertaking to get more sponsors and government support, and for five men’s teams in Cameroon, currently in the middle of their club season, there is huge excitement at squad training.”
Yamina Abdesselem, president of Morocco Rugby League also commented: “We are humbled as a Federation to participate,” he said. “We find a lot of joy and pleasure in this adventure. Our men’s national team will come mainly from our six-team domestic championship and this tournament will give another dimension to XIII Moroccan. It will contribute to the development of the sport in North Africa.”
In addition to the Championship matches, there will be coaching and match official programmes surrounding the event. The 2021 Rugby League World Cup team will be attending, bringing the trophy with them, and will also deliverer additional education, development and profile to support the sport’s growth in the region.