There was a palpable buzz in the air at the revelation by Chairman of Enyimba Football Club, Felix Anyansi-Agwu, that materials for the renovation for the Enyimba Stadium in Aba have arrived the country.
The two-time African champions have been estranged from their formidable fortress in Aba for nearly two seasons due to crucial rehabilitation work and regrassing of the pitch by the Abia State Government. Consequently, the People’s Elephants have played home games on various grounds, including Umuahia, Port Harcourt and, this season, the U.J Esuene Stadium in Calabar.
However, thanks to the commitment and tireless effort of the Abia State Government and the management, concrete plans are afoot for the return of Nigeria’s most successful club. There is now a timeline as well: it is expected that Enyimba will kick off the 2017/2018 campaign playing once more in Aba.
“The materials for the stadium have come in,” the Chairman revealed in an address to the team Friday, “and it would be good for us to return to Aba with the title. The people of Aba would then welcome us with joy.”
He elaborated, while speaking to the press, following the impressive 3-0 defeat of Niger Tornadoes at the weekend, praising the tenacity of the State Government in a harsh economic climate.
“I keep commending the Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, for his commitment,” said Anyansi-Agwu. “It is not easy. The reconstruction came at a very difficult moment: when the contract was awarded, the dollar was at a particular level; subsequently, it has shot up, but he is still committed to it.
“It might also interest you to know that the materials for final laying of the grass have arrived. So, the contractor has given the signal: as soon as the container is cleared, the job will be completed. We are very hopeful that the team will start the new season in Aba, come next season.”
He also seized the opportunity to reiterate his belief and confidence in the coaching crew, led by Technical Adviser Gbenga Ogunbote, to deliver on the mandate laid down by the club. A quest for an eighth league title hit a bump with last weekend’s defeat to Akwa United in Uyo, but there remains an assurance in the resolve of the team to peak at the right time going into the final stretch.
Nigeria Makes U-Turn Over Basketball Withdrawal
Nigeria has made a U-turn over its decision last month to withdraw from international basketball for the next two years.
At the time, the Ministry of Youth and Sports said the withdrawal was because of “the unending drama that have plagued and nearly crippled basketball” in the country.
It argued that the decision, which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, would enable the country to “revamp” the sport from grassroots level and revive “moribund” domestic leagues.
The reversal comes after talks between officials from the sport’s world governing body, FIBA, and Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare.
A letter from the FIBA-recognised Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) President, Musa Kida outlining key changes, which could be made, also helped prompt the government’s change in position.
The move means Nigeria men’s team will be able to continue in the qualifying campaign for the 2023 World Cup in Rwanda next month, where they will play Mali, Uganda and Cape Verde.
D’Tigers are top of the group on points difference after the first round of games last November, with the top three in the pool advancing to the second round of qualifying which is set to begin in August.
However, the announcement comes too late for the women’s national team to be reinstated into this year’s Women’s World Cup.
Earlier this month FIBA took the decision to replace Nigeria with Mali at the tournament, which will be held in Australia in September and October.
The decision to pull out of global basketball had been met with dismay by players and officials in Nigeria, and also abroad.
Women’s international Upe Atosu described it as “heart-wrenching” while Masai Ujiri, a Nigerian-Canadian who is president of NBA side Toronto Raptors, criticised NBBF officials.
According to the Ministry of Youth and Sports, its meeting with FIBA produced “common understanding in certain areas”.
It added that both FIBA and Nigeria had made a commitment “to explore and collaborate on enhancing relationships, development of basketball and reaffirmed mutual respect for the laws and constitution of Nigeria as a sovereign state”.
The letter from NBBF president Kida said the organisation would set up a team to “reconcile all contending parties in the basketball family at home and abroad”.
Ultimately, President Buhari was again consulted and approved the return.”President Muhammadu Buhari, being one that is committed to youth development and desirous of ensuring that they are availed of all opportunities in sports and other endeavours considered the appeal,” a statement from the Ministry of Youth and Sports said.
“In the overriding spirit of national interest, love for our youth, and in order to avoid sending basketball development into a long period of suspension, when NBBF have now committed to resolution of the issues which precipitated the withdrawal in the first place, has approved the return of Nigeria to international basketball immediately.”
The sport in Nigeria has been blighted by a protracted leadership crisis following a controversial election six years ago, leaving two parallel boards laying claim to the leadership of the federation.
The battle for control of Nigerian basketball has often hampered preparations for international competitions and crippled the country’s domestic leagues.
Kida was re-elected as NBBF president in January, a result which was ratified by Fiba in March.
Nigeria Others Battle For Relay Tickets In Benin
Four African countries, Ghana, Botswana, Togo and the Benin Republic are expected to participate in the relay events, as the national trials organised by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) to select athletes for Oregon 2022 World Championships and the Commonwealth Games in England begins in Benin City tomorrow.
Tidesports learnt that only the Nigerian women’s 4x100m and the mixed relay teams have qualified for Oregon 2022, while the men’s 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams were yet to qualify as well as the women’s 4x400m relay team.
An official hinted that the Nigerian women’s 4x100m and the mixed relay teams also need to improve on their current ranking to guarantee qualification, as the country is currently ranked 16th in both events, which means the nation is occupying the last qualification spot.
According to an AFN official, the four countries, Ghana, Botswana, Togo and the Benin Republic want to use the AFN’s National Trials in Benin City to strengthen their relay squads.
“We are expecting these four countries to arrive in Lagos today (yesterday). Maybe, one or two more countries may join us on Friday,” the official stated.
Meanwhile, reigning African Games 100m champion, Raymond Ekevwo and reigning World U20 Athletics Championships 200m kings, Udodi Onwuzurike, will be among the six top ranked athletes that will seek to be in the national team for the first time at the 2022 Nigerian Athletics Championships in Benin.
Ekevwo and Onwuzurike will go head-to-head in the short sprint, with the latter on top of the Nigerian 100m list with the 10.03seconds he ran early this month.
Onwuzurike will participate in his first National Championships and will also be gunning for the 200m title, where he stands as the overwhelming favourite.
Also aiming for their first titles are sprinters Favour Ashe, Alaba Akintola and Rosemary Chukwuma.
Ashe holds a personal season’s best of 10.04s in the 100m and won a silver medal in the event at the 2022 NCAA outdoor championships early this month in Eugene, Oregon, U.S.
Akintola, the reigning National Sports Festival 200m champion, will also be bidding for his first title in the history of the Nigerian championships.
Like Ashe and Ekevwo, Akintola also holds a personal season’s best of 10.04 seconds achieved this year.
Chukwuma, the African Youth Games and African U20 double sprint champion is also seeking her first national title in the sprint event. With the confirmed absence of Favour Ofili, Chukwuma will have Tokyo Olympics semifinalist, Grace Nwokocha, compete in both the 100m and 200m events. Nwokocha is the defending champion in the half-lap race.
Also waiting to mount the podium as national champion is 400m barrier runner, Ezekiel Nathaniel, who ran 48.42 seconds last month to break Henry Amike’s 35-year-old record in the 400m hurdles. The athlete, who turned 19 on Tuesday, is waiting to be crowned Nigerian champion for the first time.
Home girl, Tima Godbless, will also be dreaming of upstaging the U.S.-based duo of Chukwuma and Nwokocha after improving from the 11.48 seconds achieved last year to 11.25 seconds in the 100m event at the 22nd African Athletics Championships in Mauritius about a week ago.
…Plumptre, Others Join Camp In Abuja
The trio of Ashleigh Plumptre, Francisca Ordega and Halimat Ayinde have arrived at the Super Falcons Abuja camp ahead of next month’s African Women Cup of Nations, Tidesports source reports.
The arrival of the three players was announced on the Falcons’ verified Twitter handle earlier in the week.
Following the latest arrivals, the number of players in the Falcons camp now totals 28.
Falcons head coach Randy Waldrum, will select the 23-woman squad that would be in Morocco for the WAFCON from the 28 currently in Abuja.
The Falcons will take on Banyana Banyana of South Africa, WAFCON debutants Botswana and Burundi in Group C.
The nine-time African champions will begin the defence of their title against South Africa on July 4 in Rabat.
Meanwhile, the 2022 WAFCON will serve as qualifiers for the 2023 World Cup to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand as all four semi-finalists are guaranteed qualification.
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