By Ikeddy Isiguzo
THE passing year started on a sad note with the controversial death of Uche Okafor, in the USA. The former Eagles defender was found dead in his apartment. The initial impression was that he committed suicide. Investigations later vindicated those who believed that was not Uche – he was murdered.
We were reeling from that shock when Vanguard’s avid golf writer Richard Animam passed on to the shock of family, friends and associates. The fading year was one in which deaths, including former world heavyweight champion and renowned Mohammed Ali foe, Ken Norton, hit sports.
Only last week Sunday Bada, 41, Nigeria’s foremost 400m runner, joined. Bada took on the 400m tradition that Nigerian sprinters, most famously Innocent Egbunike, had established, extended and dominated it. He won three medals at the World Indoor Championships, an area he excelled.
His two silver medals and gold in 1997 were high points that no other African reached. His personal best times were 44.63 seconds (out door) and 45.51 seconds (indoor, the African record).
A three-time Olympian (1992, 1996, 2000), Bada won gold at the 2000 Games in the 4x400m relay, where the Nigerian team took the silver medal, but was confirmed the gold medal winner eight years after, following the disqualification of the USA whose team members failed drug tests. The national record of 2:58.68 minutes from that event still stands.
Bada began modestly with bronze medals in the 200m and 400m at the 1990 African Championships. He won silver at the 1991 All-Africa Games in the 400m. At the 1992 Olympics, in the 4x400m relay he finished fifth with a retiring Egbunike, who returned eight years after to coach the gold-winning Olympic relay team in which Bada ran.
In September 1992 at the IAAF World Cup in Havana, Bada won the 400m in 44.99 seconds, the first time he went under 45 seconds.
He was Nigerian 400m champion in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 2001. Bada in 1993 won the first of his medals at the World Indoor Championships, silver. The same year he finished fifth at the 1993 World Championships.
Again he was fifth at the 1995 World Championships, posting 44.63 seconds, the second fastest time ever by a Nigerian, after Egbunike’s 44.17 seconds in 1987. His other marks are, a bronze medal at the 1994 Commonwealth Games and a 4x400m relay bronze at the 1995 World Championships.
Bada retired in 2001 season but remained active as the technical director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria and in the police where he had a growing career as an officer. The tears are not for the loss of a great athlete, but a great human being who respected others and never trumpeted his achievements, on and off the track.
Flickers Of Hope
HEARTLAND Flickers of Owerri won the African Women’s Hockey Championship last week. If you did not hear about it, well you could reckon it shows how much attention others sports get. Congratulations Heartland, the challenge remains the top, the World Championship.
•SAND Eagles downed Brazil 9-4 to win the Copa Lagos, the first organised beach football in Nigeria with more international flavours from the participation of England and South Africa. Remember the Nigerian team lost the quarter-finals 10-8 to Brazil at the World Cup in a competition that two Nigerian players were denied visa, and the Brazilians stretched to take the game. Congratulations Eagles. What is left is for you beat Brazil again when it matters more.
•THE House of Representatives Committee on Sports has promised to give a legal status to the board of Nigerian football in 2012. The Nigeria Football Association has been the official name of the board. Act 101 of 1992, the law through which football receives billions of Naira annually, from national coffers, also refers to the board as Nigeria Football Association.
In the past few years, some schemers, working in concert with National Assembly, created the Nigeria Football Federation, an illegal body, that our laws do not recognise. Unfortunately, solely for their benefit, the National Assembly keeps appropriating money to this illegal body.
•NOTHING was wrong with Nigerian football (it is supposed to be sports) according to the House of Representatives Committee in Sports, except that none of our national football teams qualified for a competition in 2012. It is really something fundamental, for the football-minded sports committee.
It is painful to lose the opportunity of overseeing football’s huge budget and the many trips from its competitions. I hear someone is already suggesting the Committee needs to be at the 2012 Nations Cup in Gabon to probe why Nigeria did not qualify.
Merry Xmas, Happy New Year
MAY I use this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We need to brace up for a challenging year, more challenging than any before it. This column will be back on 06 January 2012. See you then, God willing.