For the first time in decades, the NPFL finally got close to the kind of following that validates the league as any sort of meaningful activity. The Nigerian league is now firmly part of the football conversation in Nigeria due to the persistent efforts of the LMC. As with all activities, there were positives, negatives and opportunities.
Enugu Rangers were the best team over the course of 38 games by a country mile. They scored the most goals, 53, had the most points on the road, 15, and played the best football by any stretch of imagination. The deservedly emerged Nigeria’s champions at the end of the season.
Only 18 months into the role, coach Imama Amamakabo served up a championship winning cocktail of speed, intelligent movement on and off the ball, and goals to firmly assume the leadership position of the new breed of managers in the league.
2016 Rio Olympics
Nigeria returned with one bronze medal courtesy the Dream Team. Three Nigerian athletes created records at the Rio Olympic Games. The trio with records are two table tennis stars, Segun Toriola and Aruna Quadri as well as Rower, Chierika Ukogu.
The 41-year-old Toriola had his seventh appearance at the Games making him the most capped African Olympian and Olufunke Oshonaike, who became the first female from Nigeria to compete at her sixth consecutive Games
Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri set another continental record after the 2014 ITTF star became the first African to reach the quarter-finals in the men’s singles event at Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Ukogu on the other hand, qualified for top classification in the rowing event in Rio. She is Nigeria’s first ever rower in the Olympics to have got that far, placing fifth in the third quarter final of the Women’s single sculls after clocking a time of 7:54.44 secs.
Sports Minister’s ceaseless war with the NFF:
The Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Solomon Dalung kept the Nigeria Football Federation on their toes with frequent attacks on the football house. He denied knowledge of the national U-23 team’s trip to Atlanta, USA where they went for pre-Olympic camping. But was quick to claim credit for their bronze-winning effort at the end of the Games.
He blamed the NFF on almost every conceivable flaw – from lack of funds to pay coaches and players allowances to Super Eagles failure to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
His focus on football matters made him pay no attention to other serious sectors of his ministry. Other sports suffered under Dalung and there is little hope for change in the coming year.
When the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in January in Gabon, Nigeria won’t be represented. The national team, the Super Eagles failed to qualify for the tournament for the second time running. The campaign for qualification which began with former coach, Sunday Oliseh ended with coach Samson Siasia who was called in for the final two legged encounter with Egypt. Siasia’s Eagles drew the first leg in Kaduna and lost the second leg in Alexandria.
But under Franco-German coach, Gernot Rohr, the team have put the AFCON disappointment behind and are now top of the 2018 World Cup qualifying Group which include Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia.
Flying Eagles: Failed to qualify for the 2017 Africa Youth Cup of Nations in Zambia. The Coach Emmanuel Amuneke-led team failed to beat Sudan in Lagos and crashed out.
Golden Eaglets: The Eaglets too failed to beat Niger in the qualifiers. The erstwhile defending champions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup won’t be in the African tournament next year.
Falcons: The Super Falcons successfully defended the Africa Women Nations Cup after beating Cameroon in the final played in Yaounde. They however, had to stage a protest to get their win bonus.
Basketball: Nigeria basketball witnessed tremendous growth as the country rose to becoming the best basketball playing nation in the world. The Nigeria male national team attended the second Olympic Games back-to-back while the ladies missed out in the final qualifiers in France.