By Ezeh Ben Prince
SPORTS lovers in Nigeria and around the world will surely pray that a year like 2020 should not be seen again. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the sporting calendar, with many major events cancelled or postponed, while changes were made regularly and the sporting world recording the loss of big names in the games.
However, the major events for the year included the ICC World T20 Cricket tournament for men and women, Winter Youth Olympics, the IWAS World Games as well as the usual annual events.
Many of the sporting events were postponed to 2021, while the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Invictus Games, the Euro 2020 Football tournament, with Confederation of African Football, CAF were rescheduled for 2022.
The unfortunate deaths started in January with the announcement of the death of NBA star, Kobe Bryant, popularly known as ‘Black Mamba’ and his daughter in a helicopter crash. The world was thrown into mourning and his death would not be forgotten too soon by the sporting world.
Again in March, the World football came to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many leagues like French Ligue En, Belgium Jupiler League, The Netherlands Eredivisie and many African, Asian, North and South American countries ended their respective leagues due to the pandemic. But other major leagues halted their leagues, which later resumed in July with German Bundesliga starting first.
In June, UEFA announced that the UCL quarter-finals, semi-finals and final would be played as a straight knockout tournament in Lisbon between 12 and 23 August 2020. All these ties will be single-leg fixtures. This was the first time it happened and German giant Bayern Munich came out victorious after defeating Paris Saint-Germain in a 1-0 narrow win to be crowned champions of Europe for the sixth time. Robert Lewandoski was voted the best player in the tournament after scoring 15 goals in the competition.
In the women’s UCL, Olympique Lyonnais Féminin made history by winning the prestigious award for the fifth time in a row and seven in total after defeating VfL Wolfsburg. Pernille Harder (now at Chelsea FC ladies) was voted the player of the tournament.
In Nigeria, the National Sports Festival, NSF, which will be hosted by Edo state, was rescheduled for November, but later cancelled. The League Management Company, LMC cancelled the Nigerian Professional Football League, NPFL, due to the pandemic and announced Enyimba International, Plateau United, Rivers United and Kano Pillars as representatives of the country on the continent.
Al Ahly defeated their old rival Zamalek ‘both from Egypt’ to once again be crowned champions of Africa for a record ninth time.
In Basketball, the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship. This is the first in over a decade and 17 in total. LeBron James won the finals MVP for his master class performance against his former club, Miami Heats, alongside Anthony Davis.
The games, which were played in the Bubble behind closed doors at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Bay Lake, Florida, with the Finals played from September 30 through October 11.
In boxing, Deontay Wilder lost the only belt he has to Tyson Fury. Fury who landed a devastating blow to Wilder’s left ear early in their February 22 fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas that ripped open a cut and caused Wilder to continually lose his balance. The Alabama native was knocked down multiple times before his corner threw in the towel and ended the fight.
The tragic Moment
The death of a football icon ‘Diego Armando Maradona’ shocked the world. The World Cup winner had been in hospital prior to his tragic death, having only recently celebrated his 60th birthday.
Maradona, widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, occurred on November 25, in Buenos Aires, sending shockwaves through the football world.
Maradona, who had been serving as head coach for Argentine Primera Division side Gimnasia de la Plata, had been in ill, having been hospitalised with a blood clot in the brain at the start of November.
He was admitted to La Plata clinic on November 2 after complaining of fatigue and low spirits, with representatives for the star maintaining that the condition was not serious.
The World Cup winner underwent surgery to address the blood clot and the procedure was a success.
He was subsequently released from the hospital on November 12 to recover at home as an out patient, with treatment and supervision from doctors.
However, tragedy struck while he was recuperating at his home near Tigre in northern Buenos Aires.
It was reported across Argentina’s media that Maradona’s death was caused by a fatal heart attack.
This was followed by the death of another football great ‘Paolo Rossi’. The 1982 World Cup winning star died on December 9, at the age of 64, from lung cancer. Rossi was survived by his second wife,Federica Cappelletti, and three children. During his funeral in Vicenza on 12 December, attended by thousands, his house in Bucine was robbed.
Finally on December 17, Liverpool boss, Jurgen Klopp beat Bayern Munich’s Hansi Flick and Leeds United’s Marcelo Bielsa to win the FIFA best coach. Robert Lewandoski and Lucy Bronze won the male and female best players respectively. Son min Heung’s solo goal against Burnley in the Premier League won the best goal.
– Dec. 31, 2020 @ 17:54 GMT /