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Football Leads As Nigerian Sports Cruised In 2013

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As the year 2014 rolls in today; it is pertinent to have a peep into the performance of Nigeria’s sports sector in the out gone 2013.

Indeed, Nigeria did not entirely make a clean sweep in the sporting arena in the year under review, but for those in Football, especially, Nigeria football Federation, NFF and fans, it is celebration all the way.

Football lit up the landscape as all the national teams qualified for every continental and world competitions they entered and made appreciable impact.

In a nutshell, the country’s 2013 Football score sheet reads thus, Africa Cup of Nations Victory, FIFA Confederations Cup appearance for (for the second time) FIFA World Cup qualification, U-17 World Cup win and other Youth World Cup appearances.

It simply cannot get better than that. It will be recalled, however, that the successes recorded in the past year were not accidental but could be linked to the reawakening influence of the President Goodluck Jonathan inspired retreat in sports in September 2012.

The retreat to discuss the way forward to sport in the country followed Nigeria’s terrible performance at the London 2012 Olympics.

In apparent reaction, Nigeria went to the Nations Cup in South Africa in January and surprised themselves with a third continental title.

Parading some set of up-and-coming foreign based stars and couple of home-based players like Godfrey Oboabona, Sunday Mba, Azibuike Egwuekwe and Jueron Oshaniwa, the coach Stephen Keshi led team was given little or no chance for success.

The team did start the Nations Cup on a not-too-impressive note, managing draws against Zambia and Burkina Faso in its first two group matches.

The Super Eagles further fought out a 2-0 victory over Ethiopia’s Walya Autelopes to advance to the knock out stages.

A solid performance and 2-1 victory over a much fancied Cote d’Ivoire team in the quarter final forced the world to take notice and began to reckon with the Eagles’ chances.

The team further annihilated Mali 4-1 in the semi final before overcoming the stubborn Burkinabe Stallions 1-0 in the final to annex the African title for the third time.

Nigeria last won the Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia in 1994, 19 years before they rebounded and returned to winning ways. The height of the success was the nomination of four members of the team, Vincent Enyeama, Ahmed Musa, Emmanuel Emenike and John Mikel-Obi for the African Footballer of the year award, which will be announced in Lagos this month.

Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi also joined the ranks of legends as he matched the Egyptian Mahmoud el Gohavy as the second individual in history to win the Africa Cup of Nations as a player and a coach.

Four months after winning the 2013 AFCON, Nigeria went to the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil as the continental champions.

The feat is noteworthy as it marked Nigeria’s appearance at the ‘festival of champions’ since her maiden and only appearance in Saudi Arabia in 1995.

The Eagles went on to have a poor outing in the Confederations Cup in Brazil, beating upstarts Tahiti 6-1 in their first group game and subsequently fell apart against Uruguay 2-1 and Spain 3-0.

In the last quarter of the year, the Super Eagles qualified for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil after successfully negotiating the preliminary and final qualifying stages in Africa. October/November saw the Eagles overcome an obdurate Ethiopia  over two fixtures in Addis Ababa and Calabar, to become the first Africa side to secure ticket for Brazil 2014.

The two matches were crummy and following  a 4-1 aggregate win, Nigeria prevailed and will now rank as the second African Nation with most World Cup appearance. Nigeria will be making her fifth appearance but trails Cameroon whose seventh appearance is a new record for Africa.

Next were the Golden Eaglets, who achieved a record fourth U-17 World Cup title in the United Arab Emirates UAE, beating Mexico 3-0 in the final in November.

The Eaglets showed exemplary character in one of the most exciting finals of the tournament to become the all time best side in the history of the competition. The coach Manu Garba tutored side played an attacking game of football that was pleasing to the eye, purposeful and made the Eaglets difficult to contain.

Clearly the best side at the competition, Nigeria scored 26 goals on the way to victory and carted home many awards including the Fair Play Cup, Most Valuable Player, Keeper of the Tournament and Second Leading Goal Scorer Award.

The likes of Kelechi Iheanacho, Taiwo Awoniyi, Mohmmed Musa, Musa Yahaya and Dele Alampasu were some of the outstanding players of the tournament upon whose shoulders the future of Nigerian football is placed.

It is on record that Keshi also qualified the home-based Super Eagles to their first ever African Nations Championship( (CHAN) billed to commence on the 11th of this month in South Africa, defeating highly favoured Cote’Ivoire 4-2 on aggregate.

The Super Sand Eagles, Nigeria’s beach soccer national team, were not left out of the party, as they clinched a record fourth COPA Lagos title.

Nigeria’s National Amputee football team finished in fourth place at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations for Amputee Football in Nairobi, Kenya, earlier in the month, despite poor preparations ahead of the tournament.

Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games gold medallist, Emmanuel Babayaro,  reportedly attributed the success in football to a change in attitude by the Nigeria Football Federation officials and the administrative prowess of the Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi.

He said, “There was a lot of improvement in 2013, right from the sports ministry to the NFF and the League Management Committee. Now there is this seeming respect and less interference in the job of the national coaches.

“I am not saying there is no longer interference but it is no longer rampant like it used to be in the past even though there was a match bonus row at a point. The sports minister has been a very good mediator and that is why things went the way they did this year.”

The country’s reasons to cheer in 2013 were not restricted to football alone but reflected in other events.

For utmost significance is the Maiden edition of the National Youth Games held in Abuja a couple of weeks ago. The event, a development from the Sports retreat of 2012 aimed at grassroots sports and athletes development threw up many young talents that the National Sports Commission, NSC has promised to wean and nurture to international relevance.

Other events that proved worthy of recognition include the following.

Athletics

Nigeria started the year on a high winning the maiden African Youth Athletics Championships on home soil in April.

Team Nigeria carted home 13 gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze medals to finish first ahead of second-placed Egypt, which amassed eight gold, six silver and two bronze medals.

Blessing Okagbare took centre stage in August winning a silver in the women’s long jump event and bronze in the 200m-Nigeria’s only medals- at the World Athletic Championships in Moscow, Russia.

It was reward for hard work for the multi-talented Okagbare, who has been the country’s most outstanding athlete in recent times.

Team Nigeria won the 11th African Junior Championships in Athletics in Mauritius with nine gold, seven silver and three bronze medals ahead of South Africa, who amassed seven gold, nine silver and eight bronze medals, to obtain second place.

Nigeria won two gold, two silver and one bronze medal on the final day to seal the victory. Nkiruka Uwakwe finished as the tournament’s best athlete after winning gold medals in the 200m, 4x100m and 4x400m respectively.

Ese Brume was also a revelation, winning gold in the girls’ 4x100m and the long jump events; and silver in the triple jump event.

“This is good news for us as we have won every available championship in Africa to restate our number one position in the continent. It shows that our programmes are on course to place Nigeria where we rightly belong in global track and field events,” Athletic Federation of Nigeria president, Solomon Ogba, said.

Basketball

There was nothing to cheer in basketball though, as Nigeria’s men and women national teams failed to reach the semi-finals of the Afrobasket championships for men and women.

First, the Nigerian ladies crashed out 77-74 to hosts Mozambique in the quarter-finals of the Women’s Afrobasket Championship competition.

D’Tigers lost 64-63 loss to Senegal in the quarter-finals in Cote d’Ivoire. The result meant Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup as the top three teams in the competition automatically qualified to represent the African continent.

Nigerian clubs didn’t fare better in Africa.

Weightlifting

But Nigeria’s fine run continued into December as captain Miriam Usman and Joy Joseph inspired the nation’s weightlifting team to win the women’s championship event of the 2013 Commonwealth weightlifting championship.

Nigeria won a total of eight gold, three silver and three bronze medals to lift the women’s championship trophy, while India won the men’s event.

The gold-winning heroics of Usman, who missed last year’s Olympic Games, and Joseph on the final day helped Nigeria top the women medal table.

Nigerian lifters won four trophies to emerge as the overall best lifters in the various categories while the women lifters were the best in the senior, youth and junior categories respectively.

Wrestling

Nigerian wrestlers too had a good outing in South Africa, where they won 11 medals at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship.

The wrestlers clinched four gold, three silver and four bronze medals, with the female wrestlers: Blessing Oborududu,Chioma Iheanacho, Aminat Adeyemi and Adekuroye Odunayo accounting for all the gold medals won.

“This is an impressive performance and Nigerians should be proud of these wrestlers,” President of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation, Daniel Igali said.

“I have implicit belief in these wrestlers and I am sure the sky will be their limit at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year,” he added.

Handball

After a brilliant display at the International Junior Handball championship in Montero, Mexico, in November, Nigeria emerged the third best team in the competition.

Nigeria defeated Uzbekistan 31-21 to finish third at the competition and finish as best in Africa and third best in the world.

Issues

As usual, there were loads of issues and controversies despite the relative success achieved in the outgoing year.

After helping Nigeria claim a first AFCON title in 19 years in February, Keshi announced on South Africa radio that he had resigned as coach of the national team.

Keshi claimed that before the quarter-final clash against Cote d’Ivoire, the NFF had already decided they would sack him as soon as the Eagles were eliminated from the competition.

He also alleged that the NFF booked a flight ticket back to Nigeria as soon as they found out that they would play the Ivoirians.

It took the intervention of the Presidency to stop Keshi, who also captained Nigeria to an AFCON title in 1994, from stepping down as coach of the senior national team.

But he and the team would be engrossed in more issues. First, the Eagles refused to travel for the FIFA Confederations Cup in June over a bonus row with the federation.

The bonus row began in Nairobi during the Eagles 2014 World Cup qualifier against Kenya, when the players rejected winning bonuses of $5,000 each following their 1-0 win over the Harambee Stars.

The players demanded $10,000 each but the NFF said it was cash-strapped to pay such an amount after laying off a number of Keshi’s backroom staff.

However, the situation got to a head after the team’s 1-1 draw in a World Cup against Namibia in Windhoek. The players rejected the $2,500 they were each given as bonuses for the draw, which led to the strike.

The squad eventually travelled to Brazil for the event but crashed out in the group stage of the competition.

Afterwards, Nigerians were stunned in October, when Keshi announced that he had not been paid salaries since winning the AFCON trophy in February.

A statement credited to the NFF said that the allowances and bonuses the team’s coaches earned were enough to sustain them. However, they reportedly managed to pay a part of the money owed the Eagles coach.

Again, Keshi was in the spotlight soon after helping Nigeria qualify for a fifth World Cup, when reports filtered in that there were plans to hire a foreign Technical Adviser for the team at the World Cup.

But the Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi, quickly doused the tension the story would have caused by assuring that a foreign assistant would not be imposed on the coach ahead of the World Cup.

Basketball in the country seem not have known peace since what some claim as biased handling of the 2013 Nigerian Basketball Federation elections by the sports ministry.

In the spotlight was NBBF president, Tijjani Umar, and Dodan Warriors proprietor, Col Sam Amedu (retd), who was excluded from contesting for the board of the federation courtesy of a petition signed by Muktar Khaleh, President FIBA Africa Zone 3 and NBBF vice president.

Aggrieved basketball followers feel Amedu should have been allowed to defend himself.

Moving ahead

After one of Nigeria’s most successful years in recent times, the Director-General of the National Sports Commission, Gbenga Elegbeleye, says the sports body is already mapping out plans to build on the success of 2013

Elegbeleye said, “We must thank God for the successes recorded so far in the outgoing year. It’s been a very good year for Nigeria really but we want 2014 to be even better.

“In order to consolidate on what we have achieved so far, we need to develop new talents to replace the ageing ones. In doing so, we need to consolidate and plan ahead and that is why we have given room for our federations to sponsor all athletes available, who can gain experience through international competitions to compete with the best in the world so that they can have better understanding and the chance to bring more medals to Nigeria.

“We also need to equip our High Performance System at the NSC. We want to use this opportunity to equip it with the athletes just discovered at the National Youth Games. Also some other sports federations are in camp now preparing for the Commonwealth Games and other competitions.”

There are several international competitions like the Commonwealth Games, the World Cup and others coming up next year. Indeed sports-loving Nigerians would be anxious to see how the NSC consolidates on the relative success of 2013.

President Goodluck Jonathan (3rd left) receiving the 2013 AFCON trophy from Minister of Sports Malam Bolaji Abduallahi after the Eagles trumph in South Africa in February

President Goodluck Jonathan (3rd left) receiving the 2013 AFCON trophy from Minister of Sports Malam Bolaji Abduallahi after the Eagles trumph in South Africa in February

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Adesanya Beats Vettori To Retain UFC Middleweight Title

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UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya cruised to victory over Marvin Vettori as he retained his undisputed 185-pound title in the main event of UFC 263 in Glendale, Arizona.
The pair had previously met, when Adesanya claimed a split-decision victory over Vettori in April 2018 in the Nigerian-born Kiwi’s second UFC bout.
But in Saturday night’s rematch Adesanya, 31, showed his class with a virtuoso performance as he picked apart the Italian over the full five-round championship duration at the Gila River Arena.
Vettori started the bout in aggressive fashion and landed an early takedown, but Adesanya soon settled into his work and dominated the striking exchanges, using repeated kicks to Vettori’s lead leg to punish the challenger from range.
Adesanya’s control of the bout caused plenty of consternation in Vettori’s corner between rounds, as coach Rafael Cordeiro implored his man to be more aggressive in his pursuit of the takedown.
But Vettori simply had no answer for the champion, who looked in complete control as he cruised to a shutout decision victory with all three judges scoring the bout 50-45 in Adesanya’s favour.
After the result was officially announced, Adesanya dedicated his victory to his teammate Fau Vake, a promising up-and-coming fighter who died in May from injuries sustained in an alleged attack in Auckland, New Zealand.
“I just want to say Fau Vake, Fau Vake, Fau Vake, I love you, man… This fight I dedicate to you, Fau,” he said.
Adesanya then said he wanted his next title defence to come against Australia’s former champion Robert Whittaker, but on the condition that the fight takes place in Adesanya’s hometown of Auckland after Adesanya dethroned Whit-taker in Melbourne in their first meeting at UFC 243.
“We need to run that back in my territory this time,” he said.
In the night’s co-main event, Brandon Moreno completed a remarkable career turnaround as he captured the undisputed UFC flyweight title.
Moreno, 27, submitted reigning champion Deiveson Figueiredo via third-round rear-naked choke to capture the title.

But ‘The Assassin Baby’ battled his way back to the UFC in mid-2019 and climbed to the top of the flyweight division. His first shot at the gold came last December when he and Figueiredo, 33, produced one of the fights of the year in a bout that ended in a majority draw.
It demanded an immediate rematch, and Moreno produced the best performance of his UFC career to defeat Figueiredo and claim the undisputed 125-pound title.

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Sports Minister Charges Usman To Develop Martial Art

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Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, has charged Kamar Usman to use his clout to develop Martial Arts in Nigeria.
Kamarudeen “Kamaru” Usman (born May 11, 1987) is a Nigerian-American professional mixed martial artist, former freestyle wrestler, and graduated folkstyle wrestler. He currently competes in the welterweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where he is the reigning UFC Welterweight Champion. Usman was also The Ultimate Fighter 21 tournament winner. As of March 23, 2021, he is #2 in the UFC men’s pound-for-pound rankings.
As a wrestler, Usman primarily competed at 84 kilograms and was the 2010 US University World Team Member.[8] Collegiately, he competed at 174 pounds and was the 2010 NCAA Division II National Champion, a three-time NCAA DII All-American, and a NAIA National qualifier
The Minister made this appeal on Friday when he hosted the champion in his office in Abuja.
“Today we just hit another notch of excitement as a ministry and as a country having Usman Kamaru, who is nicknamed “Nightmare” for his opponents in the octagon in the country.
Kamar, who has a staggering 19 wins out of 20 fights has established himself as a legend in the Welterweight category. Kamaru embodies two cultures; a Nigerian by birth and an American by immigration, moved to the USA at the age of 8 and is returning to the country for the first time as an adult.
The Minister said “it is commendable for you to have identified fully with your country and also the Ministry that has the mandate for Sports Development. The Ministry is concerned with a large number of Youth who are engaged in sports and are interested in your kind of sports because it has become a rave because it falls under the radar of the Mixed Martial Art and we are concerned about growing it. Having you here, as the champion, it will be great to have you headline that and start to see how at a national level and as a country we can work together to see your success remain and to see you get other youths interested in this sport.”
“Your story is well told, you signify the Nigerian Spirit; that of being dogged and rising to the top the feats you have achieved is no mean feat. For me I can’t say it enough; countries must leverage on their strength, not dwell and emphasise their weaknesses and you have signpost the good from Nigeria. As the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, we celebrate you and thank you for being a true Nigerian and remaining patriotic not just to share your success but to identify with the country. The greatest beneficiaries of this visit will be the youth of the country, who are interested in the Mixed Martial Art.”
Kamaru expressed excitement to be in the country. “I’m delighted to be here and above all during my visit to the country I aim at creating a long-lasting relationship. I represent martial art now and I want to work on making it easily accessible to everyone interested. I understand the responsibilities that I have with my platform and I want to put that to good use I want to be able to effect changes and part of being able to effect change is creating that foundation so people can actually see a future, different from what they are now, because I understand the restrictions. With my space, I want to be able to create something that will pull interested people out.”

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AFN Election: Committee To Hold Election, Today

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All is set for the 2021 Elective Congress of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) in Kebbi State.
The Electoral Committee Chairman, Prince Jambright  Sumanu told Tidesports source in Kebbi on Saturday that last minute preparations were in top gear.
Sumanu said that the election is significant in so many ways, hence the committee cannot afford to let millions of Nigerians home and abroad down.
The Elective Congress is set to hold today,  for many, will not just unite the athletics family once again but will herald the dawn of a new era in the internal workings of the federation where the constitution trumps individuals or sentiments.
“All eyes are now on the AFN elections. Everybody is looking up to us for justice. With these reputable members of this committee, we are ready to do our best.”
Speaking on the guidelines expected to be met by intending contestants,  Sumanu said that the committee expects a full compliance in line with international standards.
“We expect that interested candidates must come with nomination forms from their zones while also meeting up with World Athletics guidelines, as well spelt out in the constitution of the AFN.”
The Chairman affirmed that interested candidates with documented history of drug abuse, doping or convictions should do themselves the honour of staying off their radar.
Sumanu assured that a level-playing ground will be provided for all candidates with an option of an appeal for any contestant who is aggrieved or not satisfied with the outcome of the screening, election conduct or result.
“There is an electoral body in charge of appeal cases and we have Legal Officers who are on ground to handle their grievances. 
“Due to the peculiarity of this electoral congress, the election will be safer and authentic than what we have had in the past because we are expecting people to submit their forms of intent to contest till midnight (Saturday, 12th, June)”, the committee chairman stated.
“After that, we will download forms that were submitted online and collate with those who  have submitted hard copies.
“We will not likely go to sleep from that 12th. We will go into the production of the ballot papers. That, is even a secret document. I need to say that we will not print the ballot papers until about 2 hours to the elections. This is to ensure that the ballot papers are not exposed until voting time” he said.

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