As 2018 winds down, SALIFU USMAN and WALE AYENI look back and reflect on the gains and losses, the high and low points of the year in Nigeria’s sports sector.
n the home-scene, Lobi Stars of Makurdi were crowned champions of the 2017/2018 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season in an unpleasant circumstance after a meeting between the League Management Company (LMC) and the Club Owners Association of Nigeria in Abuja.
The NPFL season which went on break on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia could not resume due to the leadership crisis that rocked the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and Lobi Stars, who were sitting at the summit of the NPFL table with 43 points from 24 matches assumed winner of the league with 14 matches to go.
Therefore, LMC had to register the Makurdi based club as Nigeria’s representative in CAF Champions League in order to meet the October 15 deadline set by the continental soccer governing body, while Enugu Rangers defeated Kano Pillars in the finals of the Aiteo Cup to represent the country in the CAF Confederation Cup.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles could not replicate their second round performance at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as they were eliminated in the group stage after losing 1-2 in a drama-filled match against Argentina in their final group D match of the 2018 World Cup.
The Super Eagles had lost their opening game 0-2 to eventual runners up, Croatia before reviving their fortunes with a 2-0 victory against Iceland courtesy of a brace from Ahmed Musa.
The three-time African champions, just like their qualification for 2018 World Cup in Russia, booked a ticket to the 2019 AFCON with a game to spare in group qualification campaigns. The qualification meant a lot to Nigerian football fans coming on the heels of country’s failure to qualify for the last two editions after winning the tournament in 2013 in South Africa. The Super Eagles finished the year as the 4th best ranked team in Africa and 44th in the world.
Nigeria’s bobsled and skeleton team
For the first time, Nigeria’s Bobsled and Skeleton teams imprinted their footprints at the Winter Olympics at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.
The trio of Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga who participated at the event took the 20th position in the women’s category and they were the cynosure of all eyes at the game for good reason.
Indeed it was a good run for the greenhorns as the athletes had at long last attained their goal at the Games, which is to raise awareness and possibilities of Nigerian and African participants at future Winter Olympics Games.
Team Nigeria competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia, finished 9th position on the medal table with a total of 24 medals (9 Gold, 9 Silver, and 6 Bronze).
The team failed to go past their 2014 performance with (11 Gold, 11 Silver, and 14 Bronze) in Glasgow, Scotland.
Most Nigeria gold medals at the 2018 Commonwealth games came from powerlifting with (4 gold, 2 silver), athletics (3 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze) wrestling (3 gold, 2 silver, and 3 bronze) tables tennis (3 silver) and boxing (2 bronze).
Africa Youth Games in July 2018
It was a memorable outing for Team Nigeria to the 3rd African Youth Games (AYG) in Algiers, Algeria as they returned home with a total number of 105 medals won from 19 sports.
The team won 29 gold, 33 silver, and 43 bronze medals, with weightlifting giving it the richest haul of a total of 18 medals, comprising 12 gold, five silver, and one bronze medal.
At the FIBA Women World Cup in Spain, Nigeria’s D’Tigress became the first African side to win more than one game in a single World Cup tournament and also advance to the quarterfinals of the competition where they finished 8th in the final classification. More importantly, the Nigerian girls proved to be the equals of their European and American counterparts.
The Coach Otis Hughley tutored side recorded three wins in a row defeating Turkey, Argentina, and Greece before losing to eventual champions, the USA in the quarter-final, much to the delight of basketball fans, and an entire African continent as Evelyn Akhator was shortlisted as one of the best Rebounder in the tournament.
Nigeria’s men national basketball team, D’Tigers also became the first team to officially qualify for the FIBA 2019 World Cup in China with a comprehensive 114 – 69 win over the Central Africa Republic in the qualifying series played in Lagos and were joined by Tunisia, Angola.
D’Tigers returns to the FIBA World Cup for the first time since 2006 having missed out of the 2010 and 2014 editions of the championships respectively. But on the ugly side, the Leadership crisis rocking the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) continue unabated as both Tijjani Umar and Musa Kida-factions failed to sheath their swords and the world body, FIBA is not seen to be decisive in the matter.
Amputee World Cup
Nigeria’s amputee football team took part in the 2018 Amputee World Cup held in Mexico after three failed attempts in the past due to financial constraints. Guinness Plc brand ambassador, Goodluck Obieze captained the Amputee Eagles.
Youth Olympic Games
It was an embarrassing outing for Nigeria at the 2018 Youth Olympics Games in Buenos, Argentina as they finished in distance 48th position on the medal table with just four medals. The team won one gold and three silver medals in Buenos Aires.
Rosemary Chukwuma and Alaba Akintola won gold and silver medals. Chukwuma had 11.17 secs time finish to win the female category of the athletics 100m event while Akintola also clocked a time of 10.24 secs to win a silver medal in the boy’s category of the same event.
Oritsemeyiwa Ineh the triple jump athlete leapt 16.34m in stage one for a silver medal position in the men’s event and Adijat Gbadamosi won a silver medal in boxing -51 kg.
The 21st edition of the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Senior Championships tagged ‘Asaba 2018’ was held in Delta State with Team Nigeria clinching 3rd position after winning 9 Gold, 5 Silver and 5 Bronze on the overall medals table. The team finished behind Kenya and South Africa.
Nigeria failed to qualify for U-21 Volleyball World Championships billed for Tunisia in 2019 as the Nigeria boys ended their campaign at the U-21 Africa Volleyball Boys Championship held in Abuja, Nigeria. Egypt and Tunisia took home the African slots for the junior World championships next year.
However, for the first time in decades, the Nigeria Volleyball League which has been in moribund was revived with Nigeria’s Custom Service male and female teams emerging champions of both categories.
Nigeria’s football mourns Ex-Falcons Star and Udoji
While the sporting range has enjoyed some quite high moments, it was also a sad one for the Nigeria Football family as they mourned the death of one of Nigeria’s most successful women international, ex-Flamingos’ assistant coach, Ajuma Otache.
Throughout her career, she played for Nigeria at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and also won the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations the same year in South Africa. She also played for The Super Falcons at the 2003 All Africa Games in Abuja.
Nigeria’s football was also thrown into mourning in February when a fatal road crash claimed the life of Kano Pillars utility player, Chinedu Udoji in Kano.
Udoji’s car hit the concrete median separator on the metropolitan highway by the roundabout of Club Road Independent way” on his way back to the Pillars’ clubhouse after visiting his former Enyimba teammates in their hotel. Udoji, 28, is survived by his wife and two children.
Super Falcons Won 9th AWCON title
Nigeria’s Super Falcons maintained their dominance of African women football as they retained the AWCON trophy after beating South Africa 4-3 on penalties in the final game played at the Accra Sports Stadium.
In 20 years of its existence, reigning champions Nigeria have dominated the Women AFCON to an embarrassing degree, with only Equatorial Guinea breaking their clean sweep only on two occasions. The result leaves Nigeria with nine titles (1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2018.
Team Nigeria has emerged champions of the 2018 Zambia International Badminton Championship after winning four medals, comprising two gold and two silver at the event.
Dorcas Ajoke Adesokan outclassed homegirl, Ogar Siamupangila in two straight sets in the women single event to win.
Adesokan also combined well with Anu Opeyori in the Mixed Doubles to defeat Bahaedeen Ahmed and Domou Amro of Jordan. This was just as the duo of Ade Resky Diwicahyo and Azmy Qowimuramadhon of Azerbaijan also edged the Nigerians Godwin Olofua and Anuoluwapo Juwon Opeyori to win the gold medal.
National Sports Festival
After six-year waiting, the 19th National Sports Festival was finally held in Abuja to the glory of God with Delta State emerging the winner after amassing an astonishing 163 gold medals, 88 silver, and 101 bronze medals to beat the other participating teams to the number one position after 10 days of action in Abuja.
Originally meant to be a biennial multi-sports events to foster unity and help unearth new talents, the glory of the National Sports Festival (NSF) has been fading and virtually knocked to comatose since the last edition was held in Lagos six years ago.
It took the doggedness of the Youth and Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, to get the NSF back to life with Edo State chosen to host the 20th edition in Benin
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