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From Lagos to London

NEW VENTURE: Ade Adebisi and Nigerian-born Leeds Rhinos player Muizz Mustapha

YOU might be mistaken in thinking the rivalry between the Super League clubs is mainly restricted to north of England. But the battle between Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity has now taken on an international dimension.

With the new Nigerian Rugby League set to launch a domestic competition this summer, Leeds Rhinos have turned to Nigerian talent in the form of their partner club, Lagos Rhinos.
Another new entrant into the Nigerian domestic com- petition may come as surprise to some as it will be Eko Trinity challenging Lagos Rhinos come grand final time.

Eko Trinity will be Wakefield Trinity’s representation in the Nigeria Rugby League competition. This partnership will see Wakefield Trinity work along- side the Nigerian community in Wakefield, as well as travelling to Nigeria.

Wakefield plan to send am- bassadors from the club to spend a fortnight in rural Nigeria holding training camps to introduce the population to Rugby League. This is a bold commitment by Wakefield to rugby league in Nigeria.

The sports-mad population of some 200 million people – which lays claim to inter- national talent including Australian star Jayden Okunbor – would be a great place to broadcast Super League to the masses.

Craig Shepherd, general manager of Wakefield Trinity, said: “We’ve been watching the progress made in Nigeria through the work of Ade Adebisi and a group of determined partners.

“There is a real opportunity to take rugby league to an African nation that prioritises sport and 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 the local Nigerian community here in Wakefield and surrounding regions.“

He added: “We’ve also recruited the support of kit supplier GDZ Sports who will donate the surplus of each Eko Trinity shirt directly to the project. With the help of Ade and his team we will deliver coaching clinics, attend public appearances at schools and community organisations where we can introduce rugby league into the hearts and minds of the Lagos communities.”

Adebisi, vice chairman and general manager of Nigeria Rugby League, enthused: “I’m really excited that Wakefield Trinity has decided to come on board with us. For me, it just shows that hard work and dedication can pay off. I’ve devoted the last two years to this project and I’m happy things are coming together.

“The partnership we’re building all over the world will not only be great for Nigeria but great for African rugby league. When this project started, we set ourselves a very ambitious goal which is to qualify for the 2025 Rugby League World Cup, and I think we are on the way to hopefully achieving this with the partnerships we have acquired.

“For me, it is not just about having great partnerships with all these different clubs and sporting organisations – my motivation as a sickle cell anaemia sufferer is to get rid of the stigma surrounding the disease.

“I am passionate about trying to give a better life for sickle cell sufferers in Nigeria, Africa and all over the world. We are constantly seeking to partner with and engage global companies who share our mission and vision to raise awareness of sickle cell, support diagnosis and ultimately facilitate more research and treatment options for patients.

“The earlier we detect sickle cell the earlier we can find a solution for it. The more we partner with pharmaceutical companies, the more we conduct research and have treatment options available.”

On reflection, Adebisi has been surprised by the speed of the developments. “It is hard to process eve- rything that’s going on at the moment with rugby league in Nigeria.

EFFORT

“It is by no means a one-man effort. he Nigeria Rugby League board is made up of industry experts filled with youth and energy, coming from sectors such as sports, construction, marketing, and the music industry.

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