As the year rolls by, it is natural that as humans, people look back and reflect over the gains and loses in their various areas of interests. As for Nigerian sports, 2012 was a bag of mixed grills. While some may pass a verdict of total failure, some others could see certain events in the outgoing year as a new beginning, a source of hope for a brighter future.
London 2012 Olympics:
The most populous black nation with over 167million people left the London Olympic Games without a medal. It was Nigeria’s worst Olympic result since 1988.
However, the country’s Paralympians salvaged the country’s sagged image as they placed 22nd out of 164 countries that took part at the Games having won six gold, five silver and two bronze medals and third in Africa, coming behind Tunisia and South Africa..
The Nigerian physically handicapped athletes were the kings of powerlifting as 12 of the country’s medals were won in the event, breaking several world records while a consolatory bronze medal was won in the Women’s Shotput by Eucharia Iyiazi.
Nigeria’s poor performance at the London 2012 Olympics prompted Mr President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to call for a total roerganisation of the sports sector. The President ordered a one-day retreat which looked at the management and funding of sports in the country.
According to minister and chairman National Sports Commission (NSC), Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, Team Nigeria’s disastrous outing could be a blessing in disguise. Rather than see it as a failure, government got down to work with President Goodluck Jonathan leading the charge. The President called stakeholders to brainstorm and interact at the presidential retreat on how to return Nigeria to the pinnacle of sports development.
The President noted that sports was the only sector that cement all divides among Nigerians. “It is only sports that Muslims and Christians sing the same songs, dance the same steps; and therefore, we must encourage sporting activities in this country,” the President emphasised.
Nigerian football scored high in the outgoing year as all the male national teams – the Super Eagles, Flying Eagles and the Golden Eaglets qualified for the finals of all the continental events they entered for. The Super Eagles will begin their quest to win the Africa Cup of Nations for the third time. The Eagles are grouped alongside the defending champions, Zambia, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. The 2013 Afcon tournament begins January 19 in South Africa.
The Flying Eagles and Golden Eaglets also picked continental tickets to represent Nigeria at their respective African Youth Championships in Guinea and Morocco.
The country’s U-20 women football team, the Falconets and their U-17 counterparts, the Flamingoes distinguished themselves at the FIFA Under-20 and 17 Women World Cup held in Japan and Azerbaijan respectively, reaching the semifinal and quarter finals of the events.
In contrast, the senior women’s team, the Super Falcons failed to defend their African Women title in Equatorial Guinea. The team finished fourth in the event behind host, Equatorial Guinea, South Africa and Cameroon.
Nigeria’s representatives in both CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup put up abysmal performances with the exception of Sunshine Stars of Akure which made it to the semifinal of the CAF Champions League before having their ambition cut short by Egyptian giants, Al Ahly.
The Nigeria Premier League ran its full course with Kano Pillars emerging champions.The Chief Rumson Victor Baribote led Nigeria Premier League (NPL) board was swept aside by club owners in an extra-ordinary congress.
NFF at their Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Port Harcourt, ratified NPL congress decision and therefore set up a 13-man interim management committee led by Veteran journalist and former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Nduka Irabor.
Nigeria took part in the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. Nigeria appeared in the 60 metres male (Peter Emelezie) and female (Gloria Asumnu) finals but ended up without a medal.
Nigeria had no representative in the 400 metres event won by the late Sunday Bada in1997. In the women’s category, Ajoke Odumosu placed fourth in heat four as she ended up in the round.
Nigeria’s male basketball team qualified for the Olympics for the first time. They were beaten and dismantled by United States which set an Olympic record with 156 points, the highest ever in Olympics history. D’ Tigers, however made history as the first African male team to record a win at the Olympics, beating Tunisia 60-56.
Nigeria also retained its title as African leading scrabble playing nation with Nigeria’s Rex Ogbakpa taking over from his compatriot, Wellington Jighere as the new African champion.
National Sports Festival
The 18th National Sports Festival, Eko 2012 fittingly rounded off the sporting year in Nigeria. Delta State won the event while Rivers and Lagos placed 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Minister of sports and National Sports Commission chairman, Bolaji Abdulahi, who stood in for the President of the Federal Republic Goodluck Johnathan rated the Eko 2012 Games very high. He commended the athletes for their resilience and for the spirit of sportsmanship demonstrated all through the games.