President of the Badminton Federation of Nigeria (BFN) Barrister Francis Orbih has lauded the record-breaking feat of Nigerian players at the recently concluded All Africa Senior Badminton Championship which Nigeria hosted for the first time in 19 years.
Athletes from a record-breaking 15 African countries converged on the Alfred Diete Spiff Civic Centre in Port Harcourt for the championship where Nigeria’s haul of four gold, two silver and one bronze medal saw them emerge overall winners for the first time ever and Orbih believes that the success of the tournament where the novel idea of an official tournament Mascot – Alabo the Shuttler – was adopted for the first time ever shows the country has what it takes to host a global badminton event.
“Sincerely, I think we had a very good championship,” Orbih told busybuddiesng.com. “The outing was good, in terms of performance, the Nigerian team did very well, we were hosting for the first time in 19 years and we’ve never won this championship on home soil so there are so many records.
“And also, the Badminton Confederation Africa president (BCA) drew our attention to the fact that it was the first time in the history of the championship that the championship will be having an official mascot, so it was an excellent one and yes with this, the confidence level will go up and we look forward to hosting even bigger. Maybe we would be looking at a world event who knows if we are able to bid and win but we’ve been able to prove that Nigeria can actually do something good.”
Nigeria recorded a massive improvement on their showing in 2018 in Algeria where they won 3 silver and 2 bronze medals as they played second fiddle to Africa’s best badminton playing nation Mauritius. This year, the ghosts of the losses to the Mauritians were firmly buried when Nigeria defeated them first in the team event before Dorcas Adesokan avenged her 2018 loss in the women’s singles to Kate Foo Kune with an emphatic 21-12, 21-13 straight sets victory.
It was Adesokan’s first ever win over her long-time rival in five attempts and Orbih attributed the overall improved performance to the quality of the preparation and coaching compared to 2018 which was an “ad hoc thing” without national team coaches in their Katsina camp.
“This time around we have a full complement of a coaching crew and then the camping was longer and the venue of the camping was very good,” Orbih explained.
The camp used ahead of this year’s championship – the High Performance Centre at the University of Port Harcourt – was described as “one of the best sporting facilities we have in this country” by Orbih who was so impressed with the facility that he declared “for me with what happened preparing for this championship we might make that place our permanent abode for the national team.”
Orbih said the feats accomplished by Nigerian players was underpinned by the physical conditioning work they undertook in camp which gave them the upper hand over their opponents.
“The conditioning of the team was exceptional, we brought in experts that had to do with the areas of condition, strength, building up their strength and that was where they had an edge over all others. So, when you all play the same stroke, the same drop, the same smash, it will get to a point where it will be your conditioning that will make a difference: the other man tires out but you are still ready to go so that was the secret.
“We prepared better; we had a better-conditioned team we had a better-prepared team. We were mentally tough and psychologically prepared and that’s why Dorcas [Adesokan] for example could beat the girl from Mauritius Kate [Foo Kune] who had beaten her several times in the [past] years and she has been the African champion for about five years running. So, for her to be dethroned, not by losing a match 2-1; she was beaten 2-0 hands down, that was emphatic.”
Despite being generally happy with how the event turned out, Orbih acknowledged that there are a few areas where improvements can be made especially as regards the low turnout of spectators which he attributed to the inability of the BFN to carry out massive publicity campaigns as they originally envisaged due to the restiveness occasioned by the general elections in Rivers State.
While commending the government of Rivers State who were the main sponsors of the championships, Orbih noted that the BFN was stymied by a lack of additional sponsors which prevented them from carrying out certain programmes they had planned “to do in addition to what the sponsor has provided”.
“That was the major challenge we had because of the election, everybody’s focus was on the elections and we could not do the kind of publicity we would have loved to do. We had planned to go on roadshows with the mascot before the event, all that we couldn’t do because of the situation there, at some point there was even a ban to having public gatherings so we had to step down but with all those challenges we were still able to come up with such a world class event.
“For me and the board of the BFN we think it was a huge achievement.”