2016 Champions, Almat Group Eye Bumper 2017 Polo Season Battles Titan, Kano Terra, PH for Dantata Cup Title
If the 2016 polo season was an incredible year for Nigeria’s latest polo patron, Maurice Ekpenyong and his Abuja Almat Group polo team, the 2017 season is bracing for a bumper.
It started with a victory in Kaduna at the UNICEF Charity Shield last year and ended with another smasher at the Keffi Polo Ranch Open tournament last December. For polo aficionados, that was a rare feat for a young team that competed for honours in just two majors last year.
The incredible story of Almat Group polo team galloped last October with the UNICEF Charity Shield polo tournament at the foremost Fifth Chukker & Country Resort in Kaduna where Maurice and his top running Almat squad hit the ground running in a grand style.
The final battle for the General Hassan Cup that pitch two debutants, Abuja Almat and Kaduna Amana team, was an exciting duel that produced 11 ½ goals to the delight of the discerning crowd that throng the magnificent Fifth Chukker Lawns for the grand finale.
Amana Insurers, fortified with Nigerian number one, Bello Buba, had managed to held back the rampant Almat warriors’ Ibrahim Musa, Idris Badamasi, Malik Badamasi and their patron, Maurice Ekpenyong, in the early stages managing a 2 ½ - 4 score line at the end of the second chukka of the final.
However, the closing two chukkas did belong to Almat as Ibrahim, Idris, Malik and Maurice each scored to close down for 9 – 2 ½ victory and write their names in gold, winning the General Hassan title on first attempt.
Last December, Keffi witnessed one of its grandest moments in 2016 and Almat Group polo lords were again the brightest stars. At the colourful grand finale, Almat Group team celebrated at the podium, after an emphatic 10-6 victory over Iyatu Farms to clinch the medium-goal National Assembly Cup.
The way Nigeria’s latest polo patron and his Almat Group polo team play, polo pundits are already heaping the odds in their favour to clean the stakes this year. Last May, he rushed back from Keffi where his Almat finished high at the 2017 Keffi Ranch polo event, to clinch yet another major title at 2017 Unity polo tournament at the serene Guards Polo Club in Abuja.
Winning two majors before the season took steam was exactly how Ekpenyong and his Almat squad wanted to start the year. With Kano international and African Patrons Cup beckoning, the property guru believe his target of wining all top polo laurels he vied for, could well be within sight.
The Abuja based Almat who arrived the Bompai polo theatre with truck loads of supporters, are eyeing the event’s second biggest prize at the ongoing Kano tournament which enters its second and concluding weekend Thursday with Dantata Cup and the event’s biggest title, the Emir of Kano up for grabs.
But the highly revered prize would not literally follow Almat back to Abuja, as a battery of more experienced oppositions are poised for what will go down as one of the most contested Dantata cup duel in recent history.
Ekpenyong and his warriors, who are debuting at the legendary Usman Dantata Polo Ground, would take as much as they give as they seek to upstage Sadiq Wali’s Terra T&P, another debutant from Port Harcourt and many times champions and home crowd favoutires, Kano Titan.
“I’m kind of glad,” he said with a broad smile. “We are looking forward to maintaining the tempo and add more polo laurels to our shelf this year and the years to come,” he enthused.
Winning must be exciting for the real estate developer, and no one has been more proficient at it. Even more stunning is that Almat Group is making it look easy, although getting through the semi finals at the Charity Shield and at Keffi Open felt as heavy as walking through the beach sand of the Bahamas.
“I can’t say that we were too fantastic last year,” he said. “But we did win two international major tournaments featuring professionals from Argentina, Europe and South Africa, and what a great honor it is.”
Ekpenyong, who started his playing career at the Guards Polo Club in Abuja only few years back, wants to keep the victory run. And he’s already thinking about the bigger stakes like the highly revered Georgian, Majekodunmi and Emir of Kano cups.
“I think he’ll be a major highgoal champion within the next couple of years, personally,” Bello Buba, Nigeria’s top rated player said. “It’s awesome to see him tearing it up there.”