By KATO P. LADAN, Kaduna
New comers Almat Group Polo Team claimed a comfortable victory of the highly revered Emir of Katsina Cup at the just concluded 2018 Kaduna Centenary International Polo Tournament to stretch their victory run this year to four.
The winning run that started earlier in the year at the prestigious Niger Delta Polo festival in Port Harcourt with a sensational victory in the Governor’s Cup, has added three more glittering titles to their growing victory shelf.
These include other heavyweight polo diadems like the Orphanage Cup in Keffi, The President Cup victory at 12-12 Polo Turf in Abuja and the unprecedented three back-to-back General Hassan Katsina Cup victory.
This is a remarkable record for the Almat Polo, inaugurated only five years ago at the serene Guards Brigade Polo Club in Asokoro, has already confirmed them as top contenders for Best Team of the Year award.
Rated low by pundits in the Emir of Katsina Cup that pitched them against three Kaduna-based teams, Sublime, YY Kangimi, Barbedos and two visiting teams, Kano Titans, Lagos A-Plus, debuting Ekpenyong and his champions squad had only their self believe to count on.
It ultimately proved to be the Centenary’s biggest surprise, as Almat Tigers, AlMalik Badamasi, Idris badamasi, Manuel Crespo and their patron, stunned Kaduna Sublime in their opening game and edged Lagos A-Plus in the semis, to book a final ticket in the royal polo prize in the century old Kaduna polo carnival.
Their final game against pundits’ favourites, Kaduna YY Kangimi was the game changer, with Maurice and his warriors cruising to comfortable 9-71/2 victory in a sensational campaign to fetch them the Emir of Katsina title on first attempt.
From October 13 to 21, 2018,Kaduna, the political capital city of Northern Nigeria, witnessed one of its grandest moments in year with the celebration of 100th year since the noble game of kings made an historic land fall.
The fiesta featured highly competitive matches between the top-ranked teams and emerging polo powers on knock-out phases that bucked the trend and delivered more memorable fun never witnessed in the ancient that is home to the oldest polo prize in the world, the Georgian Cup, manufactured about 400 years ago.
“I think Ekpenyong and his Almat guys will be a major champion within the next couple of years ,” Bello Buba, Nigeria’s top rated player to win the Georgian Cup a record 18 times, said. “It’s awesome to see him tearing it up here.”
Two tournaments in two weeks. Three back-to-back cups victories with Centenary royal crown as the latest, has further confirmed Almat Group LCC squad as the medium-goal team to beat in the Nigerian circuit.
Their self propelled patron, Ekpenyong who earned a deserved handicap elevation by the polo ruling authority, is up there alone in the race for the New Patron of the Year Award.
Other top winners in the epoch Centenary tournament that featured over forty top teams in the nine days international extravaganza, included reigning Nigerian high-goal kings, Kaduna EL-Amin who shone brightly with their 15th Georgian Cup.
Zaria ASI defeated home crowd favourites, Kaduna Tila Farms 5-4 in extra chukka, to win their first ever El-Amin Cup, adding the second major title wins to Abuja that finished tops with Kaduna as the best performing polo clubs of the Centenary polo carnival.