By Benprince Ezeh
DESPITE serving as a unifying force for a largely divided nation at 60, Nigeria has been able to demonstrate that it is a force to be reckoned with in Sports in Africa, especially in football and basketball.
In the last 60 years, Nigerians have demonstrated that sports have served as the rallying point for Nigerians despite the ups and downs it has faced since 1960.
For instance, when Nigeria won the first African Cup of Nations in 1980, it was a celebration for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe and religion. The then Green Eagles won Africa’s biggest tournament in the continent by beating the Desert Foxes of Algeria 3-0 at the National Stadium, Lagos. Segun Odegbami’s first-half brace and Mudashiru Lawal’s effort in the second-half ensured the victory as they grabbed their first Afcon trophy.
At the age of 16, Henry Nwosu, who is 56 years now was the youngest player in the squad which conquered the continent, described it as “one winning the World Cup”.
Since then, the Super Eagles have won the Africa Cup of Nations twice since 1980, Tunisia in 1994, and South Africa in 2013. The latest was the bronze won at the 2019 Afcon in Egypt, after beating Tunisia 1-0 in the third-place playoff match.
In addition, Nigeria has in 2020 climbed to the 29th position in the latest Fifa rankings released by the world governing body on Thursday, September 24. The Super Eagles garnered 1493 points, same as the points acquired in the last edition released in March which ranked the West Africans 31st.
Nigeria is third in Africa behind the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations runners-up, Senegal, who have 1555 points and Tunisia 1506, while Algeria and Morocco are placed fourth and fifth respectively.
In the women’s team, Super Falcons are Africa’s most successful international women’s football team, winning a record 11 Africa Women Cup of Nations titles, with their most recent title in 2018, after defeating South Africa in the final. It’s first was in 1991.
The team is also the only women’s national team from the Confederation of African Football, CAF, to have reached the quarter-finals in both the FIFA Women’s World Cup and Football at the Summer Olympics. They are also one of the few teams in the world to have qualified for every edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, with their best performance at the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup where they reached the quarter-finals.
In basketball, Nigeria National basketball team ‘D’ Tigers’ represent Nigeria in the men’s international basketball. According to the Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF, the team is one of the best national basketball teams in the FIBA Africa zone, along with Angola and Senegal. Nigeria is ranked 16th in the FIBA World Rankings since the 2016 Olympic Men’s Basketball Tournament in Rio, making them the top climber in FIBA rankings from 2015.
Nigeria is the only African nation to ever qualify for the Summer Olympics through the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. This was accomplished at the 2012 event when Nigeria beat the world elite teams of Lithuania and Greece. In 2015, Nigeria won its first crown as basketball champion of Africa. The team has 14 medals across competitions like the All African Games and AfroBasket.
The ladies basketball team has performed well like their male counterparts. Nigerian women’s national basketball team, also known as D’Tigeress, represent Nigeria in international women’s basketball competition. They are one of the most successful women’s national teams on the African continent, being the current African champions, they have 12 medals in All African Games and AfroBasket.
In the Olympics, Nigeria has won 25 medals since Tokyo 1964. Three gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze medals. Two gold medals were won in Atlanta 1996 by the football team ‘Dream Team’ and in athletes, by Chioma Ajunwa. In Sydney gold medal were won by the men’s 4×400 relay team in 2000.
In the last 60 years, the top athletes and tennis stars produced by Nigeria included Sunday Uti, Moses Ugbisie, Rotimi Peters, Innocent Egbunike, Rilwane Alowonle, Usheoritse Itsekiri, Raymond Ekevwo, Divine Oduduru and Chukwuevuka Enekwechi.
Others were Favour Ofili, Blessing okagbare, Chioma Onyekwere, Tobi Amusan, Ese Brume Atanda Musa, Aruna Quadri, Bode Abiodun and Olufunke Oshonaike.
With the progressive sports programmes of the government, Nigeria is poised to excel in both continental and global sports tournaments in the next decade and beyond.
– Sept. 29, 2020 @ 09:44 GMT |