Year of Mixed Blessings for Nigerian Sports

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Super Falcons of Nigeria

By Anayo Ezugwu  |

FOR most soccer enthusiasts in Nigeria, 2016 witnessed mix feelings for the sport. The country’s soccer teams recorded series of successful outings culminating in the Super Falcons winning the African Women Nations Cup, championship for a record eight times in Cameron on Saturday, December 3.

Also, within the year, the Dream Team VI won the bronze medals at the football events of the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Another feat n the football arena was when the Super Eagles led its group for the Russia 2018 qualifications with six points after two matches.

However, the Super Eagles failed to qualify for the 2017 African Cup of Nations in Gabon. The U-17 Women National Team, Flamingos, also failed to progress beyond the group stages at the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Jordan. Likewise, U-20 Women National Team, Falconets, also failed to advance beyond the group stages at the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea.

In athletics, Nigeria recorded worse outing at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The team Nigeria failed to win any medal at the competitions. But the Nigerian Paralympics team to Brazil 2016 recorded impressive outing, the team won eight gold medals, two silver medals and two bronze medals.

In the Nigerian league, Rangers International of Enugu won the Nigeria Professional Football League after 32 years. Ifeanyi Ubah FC of Nnewi won the Nigerian Federation Cup 2016.

No Nigerian player both home and abroad was nominated for the Glo-CAF Award in 2016. The Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, led by Amaju Pinnick sacked Sunday Oliseh as the head coach of the Super Eagles and appointed Gernot Rohr as the new coach of the team.

On the European stage, Real Madrid FC of Spain won the UEFA Champions League for the 2015-2016 seasons. In England, Leicester City FC won the English Premier League for the first time in the club’s history during the 2015-2016 seasons.

The year also witnessed the big transfer deals in England. Manchester United bought Paul Pogba 23 years old for $89 million from Juventus FC of Italy, making him the most expensive player in the world football.

On February 26, the world football governing body, FIFA elected Gianni Infantino as the new president of FIFA. He succeeded fellow Swiss Sepp Blatter, who had led FIFA since 1998; stood down last year and was later suspended from football for six years for breaching ethics guidelines. He polled 115 votes, 27 more than closest rival Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa.

Infantino is a 45-year-old lawyer from Brig in the Valais region of Switzerland, less than six miles from Blatter’s home town of Visp. He entered the presidential race when it became clear that Michel Platini, boss of European football’s governing body UEFA, could not stand. “I will work tirelessly to bring football back to Fifa and Fifa back to football. This is what we want to do. I feel a lot of emotion and have not realised yet what has happened today. It is still very fresh and it’s been a long and exciting journey and I probably need some time to chill out and see what has happened.”

In 2016, the world of sports witnessed tragic events that shocked the world. The NFF and indeed sports loving Nigerians lost two of their illustrious football coaches. Stephen Keshi, former Super Eagles coach, died on June 8. The former captain of the national football team, 54, was the only Nigerian coach to have won the Africa Cup of Nations. He also became the second person in history to win the competition as a player and as a coach after Mahmoud El-Gohary of Egypt when he led the Super Eagles to win the tournament in 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He rose to national prominence when he debuted for the Super Eagles in 1981 at age 20. The late central defender withdrew from the national team in 1994. He had 64 caps and scored nine goals. As coach, he qualified an unlikely Togolese national team for the 2006 World Cup in Germany but was sacked and replaced with German Otto Pfister, just before the tournament. He, however, achieved his dream to manage a team at the World Cup when he coached the Super Eagles side to the tournament in 2014 in Brazil.

Also, the nation lost Shuaibu Amodu, former Super Eagles coach. Amodu first managed the Nigerian national team from April 2001 to February 2002. He later stated that his dismissal was unfair, and also said that, a month later; he had yet to receive a formal letter confirming his dismissal.

He was re-appointed manager in April 2008. In December 2009, the Nigeria Football Federation stated that Amodu was under pressure, and in January 2010, there was speculation about his future. He was sacked in February 2010. Amodu was appointed technical director of Nigeria’s national teams on May 203. He was re-appointed Nigeria manager in October 2014, replacing Keshi. It was his fifth spell in charge of the country. Keshi returned to the role two weeks later but was fired in July 2015 and Amodu took over the Eagles again temporarily. He was replaced by Oliseh on a permanent basis later that month.

On Monday, November 28, a charter flight of an Avro RJ85, operated by LaMia, crashed in Colombia killing 71 of the 77 people on board. The aircraft was transporting the Brazilian Chapecoense football squad, including 22 players, 23 coaching and other club staff, two guests and 21 journalists.

The team was en route to play the first leg of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana Finals in Medellin, against Colombian team Atlético Nacional. Two of the nine crew members, three of the players and one journalist survived. Due in part to the pilot reporting a lack of fuel, and that the distance between the source and destination airports was very near to, or exceeded, the maximum rated range of the aircraft, it has been speculated that the cause of the crash was fuel exhaustion.

— Jan 2, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT

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