July 19, 2019

Always a medallist

Always a medallist

Sydney Olympic Gold Medal

In my career as a sports journalist, I have visited the northern part if Africa four times, covering sports events.

Sydney Olympic Gold Medal

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Out of the four times, Tunisia was my destination three times, 1994, 2004 and 2015. The fourth time is this year and in Egypt.

On my way here, veteran sports journalist and chronology expert, Kunle Solaja jocularly told me through his younger brother Femi with whom I traveled, that I must not return without a medal like I did in previous outings.

I responded by telling Femi that it was in the hands of God and not mine.

When the Super Eagles lost their third group match against Madagascar and placed second in the group to face Cameroon in the round of 16, I didn’t lose sleep because I knew the defeat the Eagles inflicted on them during the 2018 World Cup qualifiers would haunt them and they will make mistakes.

Facing South Africa in the quarter finals was another headache. They needed to scale that hurdle for me to achieve the feat of another medal to my basket of laurels.

It was thus a relief when they survived the Bafana Bafana to face Algeria in the semi final. The loss to Algeria was painful though but at least I knew that they still had a chance to play for a medal when they face Tunisia, the other semi final loser.

At this stage I would have been tensed up that Tunisia could spoil the party and deny the Eagles the bronze but I kept calm, knowing that history favours them as they have never lost seven previous bronze medal matches.

It was therefore not a surprise when Odion Ighalo hit the back of the net early in the game to also increase his goal haul to five, the highest by any player, including the Liverpool Champions League medalists, Mohammed Salah of Egypt and Sadio Mane of Senegal.

The Eagles celebrated it and so did I. They may have done so more for the $10,000 they would earn as bonus but mine was just for the records that I came and the team didn’t leave empty handed.

In 1994 in Tunisia, it was gold for the Eagles and me, in 2004, again in Tunisia and for this year, it was bronze.

The other gold medal which I cherish most was a basketball gold with the senior men’s basketball team, the D’Tigers who won the Afrobasket top prize, for the first time in 57 years.

I cherish this medal most because I was not only there as a journalist but so many things in one.

I was leader of delegation, in acting capacity though, for the brief time the NBBF president, Tijjani Umar returned to Abuja to get money for the team.