Home Sports Nigerian sports in 2014: One step forward, three steps backward

Nigerian sports in 2014: One step forward, three steps backward

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Nigeria’s performance in the 2014 sporting calendar can best be described as inconsistent, incoherent and totally below par. Although the country recorded pockets of successes in a few isolated competitions, football, which is like the king of sports in Nigeria recorded the biggest casualty in the Super Eagles who failed to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, a competition they won in 2013 in South Africa.

Correspondingly, the reigning African Champions who rose to 5th in April 1994 ended 2014 as the 43rd best national team in the world.

As unprecedented as Super Eagles collapse was, the women gave the country a lot to cheer. The country’s U-20 Women’s team, the Falconets went to Canada 2014 FIFA World Cup and surpassed all expectations. The young ladies guided by Peter Devdebo shot their way to the final of the tournament and lost 0-1 to Germany. Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala was a delight to watch as she deservedly carted home the Adidas Golden Boot and the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Similarly, the senior women’s team, the Super Falcons re-emerged as the most dominant force in the continent as Coach Edwin Okon led them to a record 7th African title in Namibia in October. By that feat, the Falcons will lead Africa’s charge at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada. Interestingly, Asisat Oshoala who dazzled at the U-20 level and won the MVP in Namibia with the Falcons, will return to Canada, the land that made her one of the future stars to watch in world football. Already, expectations are high that the African champions will not disappoint.

France's midfielder Paul Pogba (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the round of 16 football match between France and Nigeria at the Mane Garrincha National Stadium in Brasilia during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 30, 2014.  AFP PHOTO .

The lowest point in the country’s football during the year under review was the crisis that almost smeared the September 30 NFF Board elections in Warri. The crisis persisted long after the election that it took several interventions from the world football governing body, FIFA for the issues to be put to rest. Nigeria became a laughing stock among the comity of nations. Indeed, the NFF crisis culminated in Nigeria’s non-qualification for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations as to date, the national team is still without a head coach.

Taking a retrospective look at Nigerian football in 2014, former Nigeria international who later handled the national team, Christian Chukwu said, “although the Falconets got to the final of the FIFA U-20 Women;s World Cup and Falcons won the African Women Championship, the Eagles could not qualify for the 2015 Afcon and the crisis in the Nigeria Football Federation made it worse.”

Nigeria’s heroics at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow deserve special mention. The country’s contingent posted a sterling performance with 11 gold, 11 silver and 14 bronze medals, totaling 36 medals. Blessing Okagbare was star of the Games, winning a sprint double, while up and coming junior athlete Ese Brume won gold in the women long jump. Nigeria also excelled in Weightlifting. Boxing was not too good.

Fresh from winning the Commonwealth Games sprint double just two weeks earlier, Blessing Okagbare showed no signs of tiredness at the African championships in Marrakesh, Morocco. Okagbare won the 100m in a championships record. This time, not only did she face double world silver medalist, Murielle Ahoure of Cote’ d Ivoire, she also had to contest with a stiff -1.4m/s headwind. She dealt with both, though, and came through strong at the end to win in 11.00, taking 0.03secs off the championship record she set in 2010.

Nigeria's Blessing Okagbare celebrates winning the women's 100m athletics event at Hampden Park during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland on July 28, 2014.   AFP PHOTO

Nigeria also had an excellent outing at the 6th Commonwealth Taekwondo championships in Edinburgh. The country’s 16-man contingent won a total of 4 gold and 2 bronze medals to finish 4th, the best ever finish by Nigeria. Taekwondo Federation President, George Ashiru, who believes the feat in Edinburgh would help the country’s qualification for the 2016 Olympics, hopes that more support from government and stakeholders would spur the team to greater heights. “For us, 2014 was a watershed as we were able to attend a number of international tournaments while the domestic scene was equally active,” Ashiru recounted. “In terms of development, we took some giant strides as some of our coaches and referees attended international courses. Indeed, two of our referees were declared best referees at two separate international events in 2014. And that is no mean achievement.”

He also recalled that the year witnessed the discovery of young talents who will take over from the likes of Chika Chukwumerije. Some of them have already had international exposure. “With the strides recorded by Emmanuel Peters and Chika Chukwumerije, we know that it takes at least 8years grooming before an athlete can get to the medal range at the Olympics. We are happy that we have recorded incremental improvements after an overall assessment of our programmes in the outgoing year.”

Table Tennis was another pace-setter in the year under review. With a vibrant leadership anchored by Enitan Oshodi, the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation ensured the ping pong players were busy all year round. They attended local and international championships. Above all the federation hosted major international tournaments in Lagos, including the Lagos Classics, the Lagos Opens, among others. Portugal based Aruna Quadri rose from 237 in the world in February this year to 30 in November and now 31, according to the latest ITTF rankings.

Administratively, Nigerian sports witnessed the macabre dance. The new Sports Minister, Tammy Danagogo was, at times, seen as a confused man whose every step took the country backward. His inconsistencies, particularly in the crisis that engulfed the Nigeria Football Federation sort of fanned the embers in the football house.

After ensuring the ouster of the former NFF President, Aminu Maigari, the Minister goofed in events that led to the enthronement, albeit briefly, of an illegitimate board led by Chris Giwa. His miscalculated dabble into the succession process at the Glass House was the sore point in his handling of the NFF crisis and, to a large extent, gave the Giwa FC boss the muscle to throw his weight about. Thank God all that is now history.

Aside the NFF crisis, Danagogo performed excellently. His support for the so-called lesser sports like Taekwondo, Weightlifting, Table Tennis, sports for the physically challenged, among others is legendary. His pragmatic approach to early preparation of athletes for international events was the tonic for the successes Nigeria recorded at the Commonwealth Games, the Commonwealth Taekwondo championship, among others.

Danagogo’s drive for developmental sports is also second to none. The young Minister led Nigeria to topple Africa at the African Junior Athletics Championships in Mauritius. Domestically, the National Schools Sports Festival was also held in Otukpo.

In summary, Nigerian sports could have achieved more if the right things were done at the right time.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I have not checked in here for some time as I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are good quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

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