The Osimhen, Oshoala show
Starting from where it ended, 2023 will be a year to remember in Nigerian football as the country produced both winners of the CAF Player of The Year awards. Napoli striker Victor Osimhen won the men’s APOTY, becoming Nigeria’s first winner since Nwankwo Kanu in 1999, while Barcelona Feminine forward Asisat Oshoala won a record-extending women’s APOTY. Super Falcons and Paris FC goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie claimed the Goalkeeper of The Year honour while the Falcons’ show at the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand earned them the National Team of The Year gong.
Another feat on the continent in 2023 was the qualification of both the Super Eagles and the Super Falcons for next year’s AFCON and WAFCON respectively. Victor Osimhen was the AFCON qualifiers top scorer with 10 goals as Nigeria topped its group with 15 points. On the other hand, the Falcons reached the tournament billed for Morocco after beating Cape Verde 7-1 on aggregate.
Despite not being the only African country to reach the round of 16 of the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Nigeria won the hearts of fans globally with their spirited display from a touted tough group, which had Olympic champions Canada, co-hosts Australia and Northern Ireland. Randy Waldrum’s ladies, however, defied the odds by staying unbeaten with five points before they were knocked out on penalties by England in the round of 16.
Amusan’s Golden Diamond
Two days before the start of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Tobi Amusan was cleared by the Athletics Integrity Unit to compete, one month after she was provisionally suspended for three whereabout tests failures. She was, however, unable to defend her title, finishing fifth in the race which was won by Jamaica’s Danielle Williams. Three weeks later, she capped her season with a third successive Diamond League title in a time of 12.33secs.
Just about a month after the appointment of Rena Wakama as the coach of D’Tigress, the Nigeria national women’s basketball team on August 5 won the 2023 FIBA Women’s AfroBasket tournament. They beat Senegal 84-74 to clinch their fourth successive African title. What a way to return to the continent after an in-house scuttle was met with a ban by the Federal Government, which prevented them from playing at the World Cup in 2022.
Joshua returns to winning ways
Anthony Joshua is no longer the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion of the world but in 2023 he showed he could be the toast of all again with two wins in two fights even as the world waits for some of his touted big fights.
On August 12, Joshua beat Robert Helenius by KO in round seven. Helenius was no match for Joshua, who closed the show with a big right hand. Earlier in April, he also beat Jermaine Franklin by unanimous decision. To some, he didn’t actually silence doubters but he returned to winning ways after two losses to Oleksander Usyk in 2022.
Quadri retains African title
In September, Nigeria table tennis star, Quadri Aruna successfully defended his ITTF Africa Senior Championships crown, defeating Egypt’s Ahmed Saleh 4-0 (11-2, 12-10, 11-6, 11-6) in the men’s singles final in Tunisia. Aruna made a lightwork of the Egyptian to win his third continental title. He won the second title last year in Algeria with a 4-3 nerve-wracking win against Egypt’s Omar Assar.
Enyimba in ninth heaven
Two-time CAF Champions League winners Enyimba FC reigned supreme as the most successful football team in the country by winning a record-extending ninth Nigeria Premier Football League title in Lagos. The People’s Elephant edged Remo Stars by superior goal difference to clinch the title during a keenly contested Super 6 tournament in Lagos.
Nigeria recorded significant improvements in cricket in 2023. It started with the women’s senior national team, the Female Yellow Greens, winning the NCF T20i tournament in Lagos just as their male counterparts, the Yellow Greens, also won the maiden West Africa Trophy with a 100 per cent record in Lagos. Before the men’s triumph, Nigeria was selected as one of the countries to host the ICC 2023 Cricket World Cup Trophy. The two-day event, which began in Abuja climaxed in Lagos.