President of the Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF) Professor Yahaya Ukwenya says he is “excited” by the feat of Nigeria’s U19 Male Cricket Team who recently clinched qualification to the U19 ICC 2020 Cricket World Cup in South Africa and he told busybuddiesng.com that the “unexpected” victory of the Junior Yellow Greens will have “a multiplying effect” and “open other doors” for the sport of Cricket in Nigeria.
Ukwenya was in Namibia with the team for the U19 ICC World Cup qualifier Africa Division 1 from March 15th to 24th and cheered on as the Junior Yellow Greens dispatched the hosts and then Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Sierra Leone to emerge unbeaten and clinch the sole World Cup ticket.
It was a victory that he never expected or saw coming, indeed he admits to not being very confident of the team’s chances mostly because of the presence of teams vastly superior to Nigeria but it all changed following Nigeria’s defeat of hosts and heavy favourites Namibia in their very first game which Ukwenya said led to a groundswell of belief in the team who realized that with their biggest obstacle out of their way, qualification was possible.
“We were all excited by the victory of the boys,” Ukwenya told busybuddiesng.com. “It was unexpected as we didn’t rate ourselves and our chances of winning that high until the boys got into the competition [and] particularly took care of the first opposition and once we won that first match we knew that we had a very good chance of winning if we continued to apply ourselves and then eventually the boys won.”
That victory confirmed the U19 Male Cricket Team as the first in Cricket to qualify for a World Cup and according to Ukwenya, qualifying for the U19 World Cup “opens other doors” to more opportunities for growing and boosting the profile of the sport and that the “multiplying effect” of the victory will see more Nigerians in both the private and public sectors get involved in Cricket.
“I believe that it is a major step forward for us,” Ukwenya told busybuddiesng.com about what qualifying for a first ever Cricket World Cup means for Nigeria.
“Number one: we’d be flying our country’s flag at the World Cup for the very first time in any cricketing event, and that’s a landmark and of course that also opens other doors I believe that as a nation, we can play the game so a lot more people will the get involved because of that [qualifying for the World Cup].
“This victory has a multiplying effect on so many things. It has a multiplying effect on enrollment of children into the game because media both mainstream and social media have been awash with news of the performance of these boys there’s no doubt that the information is going round. Where schools were not ready to work with us before I am sure they might have a different opinion. Again in terms of backing from individuals and corporate sources there is an opportunity for us. So this victory has different multiplying effect.”
A particular consequence of the Junior Yellow Greens which gladdens Ukwenya’s heart is the newfound interest the Federal Government is showing in the affairs of the NCF with the Minister of Sports Solomon Dalung fluttering his eyes in the direction of the Federation following a reception he held for the team last week.
For a Federation yet to receive any form of financial subvention from the Sports Ministry and whose finances are tied to funding from the International Cricket Federation (ICC), the promise of financial support towards a positive outing at the World Cup made by Dalung was Music to Ukwenya’s ears.
“You have heard that now the government called us for a reception immediately they heard about the news, we’ve not had that type of relationship with government all this while because government has certain priority sports of which football will be at the top of the priority sports but the minister gave attention and it was a wonderful event and he had very good things to say about cricket. I think this is progress on the home front.
“[The] minister made a declaration that the boys are now children of the President of the Federal Republic, based on what they have achieved and therefore their training and their participation will be funded by
Ukwenya says the “responsibility” now lies with the Federation to come up with a programme for the team which will be submitted to the Ministry.
“It is now our responsibility to submit to him the programmes to prepare the boys towards the World Cup. In Cricket preparation comes in form of camping and tours. Tours to countries because we need to gain experience.
“So we will pick a number of countries where the boys will gain experience and we will be running different camps. I’m sure the programme will be submitted to the Minister as soon as we can,” he said.