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NIGERIAN SPORTING YEAR IN REVIEW – PART 2

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Like every nation will note, it is incredibly difficult, sometimes, downright impossible to have a sporting year of uninterrupted, unfiltered excellence across board or even in an area of sport. As it is, Nigeria is no exception.

Having already reviewed some sport in part one, we will wrap up this review segment on this part.

FOOTBALL

In the year under review, we will look at every team under the supreme care of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

HIGH POINTS

It has been a generally successful year for the Football. A fair share of ups and downs, but the football fraternity enjoyed a relative amount of success in the calendar year.

– Super Falcons win AWCON

The Super Falcons endured a terrible preparatory phase as they geared up for AWCON – the continent’s biggest football event for women – yet somehow emerged victorious.

Their performance wasn’t great, admittedly, but they delivered the title and qualified for the World Cup in that process.

– Super Sand Eagles

In a stranger event, the Super Sand Eagles reached the final of the Beach Soccer biannual tournament, defeating hosts Egypt in the semifinals and Abi Azeez made history even as the nation qualified for the 2019 World Cup in South America.

However, these boys did the impossible. Nigeria does not have a beach soccer league, this means players were drafted in to the team, and they went all the way putting aside professional sides despite a nonexistent camping phase. It doesn’t get bigger than that.

– Golden Eaglets win

The U-17 don’t usually get the spotlight until they are competing at the World stage. But the triumph in Niger Republic earlier in the year says a thing or two about the progress of the NFF U-13 and U-15 programmes, where majority of the players graduate from.

The tournament wasn’t on TV, hence it was difficult to follow but we can now look forward to what is to come at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

LOW POINT

– Super Eagles Crash out of World Cup

Administration wise, the Super Eagles enjoyed the best measure of preparation but like we have come to realise, preparation is key, what happens on the field is mutually exclusive.

The Super Eagles endured a failed outing in Russia without mincing words, and watching Croatia – who finished as group leaders – go all the way to the final leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

– LMC halt NPFL league season midway

The decision of the LMC to end abruptly the 2017/18 season is one of the worst decisions ever made as regards the progress of Nigerian football.

Although officials may point to the progress of Lobi Stars and Enugu Rangers in the Champions League and Confederation Cup as evidence they made the right call; four months after the decision was made, the league is yet to resume as it has spiralled down to the lower division and could cause another major crisis.

– NFF hands Assistant coach

This is, perhaps, the worst we have seen all year. Super Eagles assistant coach Salisu Yusuf was caught on camera receiving a bribe from Ghanian undercover journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas during CHAN 2018.

After BBC released the footage, it obviously attracted widespread criticism and as everyone waited to see the reaction of the NFF, they did what most had sarcastically predicted they will do: temporary suspension and a $5000 fine.

It means the Coach will resume his duties as assistant to Gernot Rohr after serving his suspension. Bizarre.

– NFF guilty of neglect

First it was CHAN Eagles, then Super Falcons, and then the Super Sand Eagles.

It is no secret that the Super Eagles are the flagship team of the Nation, however, time and again, the NFF displayed a total lack of care.

It felt like whatever happened to every other team didn’t matter and even in the face of the public outcry, not a lot was done.

The NFF has taken a step to right the wrong, beginning with the Super Falcons as they prepare for the Women’s World Cup in 2019, but how they handled things in 2018 was an absolute disgrace.

TABLE TENNIS

The sport has been growing at a consistent pace since the breakthrough of Aruna Quadri almost half-a-decade ago. But the progress hasn’t gone across board just yet and it is begging for more attention but at this time, there are few standout events.

HIGH POINT

The fourth edition of the ITTF Nigeria Open finally saw Nigeria’s biggest Table tennis player emerge victorious.

The runner-up ghost had been haunting Aruna Quadri at the home tournament, but he finally laid it to rest and became the first player to win on home soil since the tournament was established as a Challenge tournament in 2014.

LOW POINT

Table tennis is still struggling for a fair share of popularity in the country due to its inadequate media presence.

Just like football, table tennis is one of the most popular past time in the country, yet the federation hasn’t done enough to grow it, leveraging on the culture and acceptance that is in place.

Another year has gone by, and the sport has barely grown her audience.

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