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Nigeria’s Dream Team: Truth Or Fallacy?

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Since after the Nigerian U-
23 team won the gold medal of the football event of the Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games, the team’s official designation has since changed to “Dream Team’’.
The team at that time had the very best of the nation’s football talents in its ranks, players like Nwankwo Kanu, Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Daniel Amokachi, Taribo West, Uche Okechukwu among others were some of the stars that made up the team.
This array of talented footballers literally took the football world by storm by overcoming very stiff and highly talented opposition like Brazil and Argentina to win the much coveted gold medal in the quadrennial global sports fiesta.
It is pertinent to note that the team’s victory was the first time an African country was winning the Olympic soccer gold medal.
The name, “Dream Team”, that was eventually adopted by the all conquering U-23 team, did not drop from the sky, it was a recourse to the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games where actually the concept was first used.
The original Dream Team, the U.S. basketball team that won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona was a phenomenon on and off the court.
It mattered not that it dominated the Olympic competition, beating its eight opponents by an average of 44 points.
What was important was that the Dream Team, the first U.S. Olympic team to include NBA stars, gave fans a glimpse of basketball at its finest, and the entire world responded.
The team had three of the game’s all-time greats: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
The team also had the irrepressible Charles Barkley, as well as seven more NBA All-Stars: centers David Robinson and Patrick Ewing, power forward Karl Malone, swingmen Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin and Clyde Drexler and point guard John Stockton.
Their coach, Chuck Daly, was so overwhelmed by the array of mega talents at his disposal and described the team thus: “It was, like Elvis Presley and the Beatles put together.
“Traveling with the Dream Team was like travelling with 12 rock stars.
“That’s all I can compare it to,’’ he said.
The team was described as an unplayable team because opponents didn’t have a chance, but they didn’t care.
It was even reported that one player, while trying to guard Magic Johnson, was seen frantically waving to a camera-wielding teammate on the bench, signaling to make sure he got a picture of them together.
Since their advent in the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992, the succession of U.S. basketball “Dream Team’’ have gone on to win the basketball events of the Atlanta1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and the 2012 London Olympics where Nigeria’s D’Tigers were crushed by a whopping score line of 156-73 in one of their outings.
The poignant question to ask at this juncture is whether the Nigerian Dream Team has lived up to its billing in terms of performance and reputation wise.
Since their epochal victory at the Atlanta ’96 Olympics, the closest the U-23 team has come to winning another gold medal was the silver medal that the Samson Siasia-tutored side won at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Since then the team had performed epileptically and not making the kind of impact that was expected of a team with such a name.
A development that made one of the nation’s renowned TV sports analyst, Kayode Tijani, to say that the U-23 team is not qualified to be called the “Dream Team’’.
“They are not qualified to bear the name Dream Team.
“We only named the victorious U-23 team, Dream Team after we won the gold medal at the football event of the Atlanta ’96 Olympics.
“Even the players themselves did not believe that they will win the competition, and the goalkeeper Joseph Dosu, said that at half time against Brazil, the players were more concerned about damage control.
“The players were more concerned about the reaction of the nation’s teeming fans and did not believe that they will turn the table against the Brazilian team that had the likes of Ronaldo da Lima, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Dida etc.
“To me, what qualifies the U-23 to be called a Dream Team is to perform consistently like the American Olympics basketball team, the original Dream Team that has been consistently consistent performance wise,’’ he said.
In the same vein,  a member of the victorious Green Eagles squad that won the 1980 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations in Lagos, Adokiye Amiesimaka said it’s a neither here nor there issue.
“You give yourself the name you want which you are entitled to, and I see it as an ego thing.
“But if others should name you according to their assessment, it will be a more realistic name that they will give to you.
“We can call ourselves whatever we want, it’s a neither here nor there thing.’’
There was a time when the Super Eagles were not performing well and fans started calling them the Super Chickens; but they are still known as the Super Eagles.
“As a matter of fact, our national team used to be known as the Green Eagles before our late Vice-President, Augustus Aikhomu, renamed the team Super Eagles after the team’s remarkable performance at the Maroc ’88 edition of the AFCON.
“Like I said earlier, self-assessment is not a realistic task, it’s more of an ego thing,’’the former AFCON winner said.
In spite of the misgivings by Amiesimaka and Tijani,  a renowned football on air analyst, Eseoghene Edafe, was of the view that the current U-23 team can be rightly called the Dream Team VI.
He stressed that a world renowned team like the Selecao of Brazil have not been able to win the football event of the Olympic Games compared to the nation’s U-23 team that has a gold and silver medal in their kitty.
Edafe added that it will be unfair to compare the U-23 team to the famed U.S. basketball team that has all it takes to sweep every team out of their path since basketball was their forte, compared to the U-23 team that had succeeded where more illustrious teams have failed.
“Our football team is not even ranked in the top 50 of FIFA’s monthly football ranking, but yet the Nigerian U-23 team has won a gold and silver medal in the Olympic Games, compared to the Brazilians that have won the World Cup, Copa America, and FIFA Intercontinental Cup.
“But in all their achievements, they don’t have an Olympic gold medal in their trophy cabinet.
“You may not agree with me in terms of comparing our U-23 team and the U.S. basketball team in terms of consistency, but I feel our team has done well to be called the Dream Team VI,’’ Edafe said.    With the nation’s qualification for the football event of the 2015 All Africa Games and the qualifiers for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games looming on the horizon, the nation’s current “Dream Team’’ is poised to prove that they deserve to be called Dream Team VI.
The Siasia-tutored side had to battle against the odds to eke out a 2-1 win over the hard fighting Zambians in Lusaka on April 12.
With Siasia at the helm again, the nation’s football fans are guardedly optimistic that the team is once more on the threshold of making Olympic football history by winning a second gold medal.
Okara is a staff of News Agency of Nigeria.

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RSG Restates Commitment To Youth Dev Via Sports

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The Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on School Sports, Chief Aribitonye Okiri, has said that the state government-led by Chief Nyesom Wike, is committed to develop youths in the State through sports. 
 He stated that it is not in doubt that the State has hidden talents at the grassroots that are yet to be discovered. 
Chief Okiri, said this at the finals of the National School Sports Competition held at Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports Complex in Port Harcourt, on Wednesday.
According to him, Governor Wike is poised to reach out to young ones in all the local government areas, in the state and engage them with sporting activities in a bid to discover hidden talents. 
“As I speak, the governor has reiterated his desire to reach out to the children in all parts of the state and unearth their talents through engagement in sports, believing that all Rivers children are talented” Chief Okiri said. 
Also speaking, the second Vice President of Nigeria School Sports Federation (NSSF), Pastor Emmanuel Ebong, thanked Governor Wike, for proving a worthy partner of NSSF and appeal to other corporate organisations to emulate Nigeria Breweries Ltd in partnering NSSF in sports development. 
At the end of the final competition, Community Secondary School, Okochiri in Okrika Local Government Area, dominated the medal table.

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24 States Set For Lagos Athletics Championship

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The Lagos State Athletics Association has confirmed the entry of 24 states and some clubs for its lucrative Athletics Meet fixed for Thursday, at the Teslim Balogun Stadium.
Yussuf Alli who is the Meet Director for the Lagos Open Athletics Championship made the disclosure at the weekend even as he hinted a few other states may still join the already confirmed 24 states and clubs.
He said: “Yes, we are very much on track for the Lagos Open Athletics Championship which will be coming up this Thursday.
“Right now, we already have 24 states and some top racing clubs that have confirmed their participation, a few more may join before we close the window.”
The Lagos Open Athletics Championship is a one-day meet simultaneously serving as another qualifying window for the Tokyo Olympics as well as a preparatory event for athletes that have already qualified for the sporting showpiece.
In the past days, Lagos has been a beehive of activities with the National trials at the Yaba College of Technology Sporting complex and now the train is moving to the heart of the city in Surulere as the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics continues to gather momentum.
 The list of events to be competed for at the Lagos Open Athletics Championship includes the 5,000 meters, 400 meters hurdles, 100 meters, 800 meters, 400 meters, and 100 meters.
There would also be top-quality action across the relay events including;  the 4×100 meters open, 4×100 meters open and 4×400 meters mixed relay.
Long jump, High jump, Triple jump, Shot put as well as 4×100 secondary schools relay and 4×100 secondary schools relay have all been penciled down for the maiden Lagos Open Athletics Championship.
Already, the top three finishers across all the events have been assured mouthwatering prizes by the organisers.

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Okagbare Sets New Record At Olympic Trials

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Blessing Okagbare will be heading to Tokyo Olympics in the best form of her life after running the second fastest time in the world this season.
The 32-year-old ran  10.63 seconds to win the Athletics Federation of Nigeria Olympic Trials at the Sports Complex of Yaba College of Technology in Lagos on Thursday. 
The 10.63 seconds time saw her tie with Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’ best time in 2021 ahead of the delayed 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Okagbare ran 10.99 seconds in the semifinal of the event to set a new championship record , and before clocking 10.63 seconds in the final to set a new record.   The scorching 10.63 time is also a new African record. Only Florence Griffith Joyner who holds the world record at 10.49 seconds has run faster.        The Nigerian has now emerged one of the favourites for the 100m gold at the Tokyo Olympics alongside Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who first ran 10.63 seconds this season.

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