Nigeria: Remembering Nigeria’s Sports Heroes and Heroines

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As Nigeria marks her 60th anniversary at this time, DURO IKHAZUAGBE takes a journey down reminiscence lane on a few of the nice sporting landmarks recorded since independence in 1960

As Nigerians mark 60 years independence of the nation at this time, it’s also time for these within the sports activities sector to do a actuality examine of how our previous and current sportsmen and ladies have additionally fared. Three scores within the lifetime of an unbiased nation is sufficient to have produced heroes and heroines within the varied sectors, together with sports activities, since 1960 when the British Union Jack was lowered for our green-white-green flag.

Sports activities like soccer, observe and area, boxing, particular sport, wrestling, desk tennis, tennis, basketball, weightlifting, volleyball, handball, taekwondo, judo and a number of others who’ve produced women and men who’ve introduced glories to this nation whether or not at continental or international stage.

For the older technology Nigerians, boxing and never soccer was the game that first introduced international honour to the nation barely three years outdated as a nation.

Dick Tiger Ihetu fought America’s Gene Fulmer and gained the World Middleweight boxing title. That combat held on the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan. Dick Tiger’s feat was a follow-up to the pre-Independence achievement of Hogan ‘Child’ Bassey who gained the World Featherweight Boxing Championship combat in Liverpool in 1957. Nojeem Maiyegun gained Nigeria’s first Summer season Video games bronze medal within the Mild Middleweight class on the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, whereas Isaac Ikhuoria adopted up with a bronze within the 1972 Video games in Munich, Western Germany.

Between these early days and when Davidson Andeh gained the world beginner light-weight boxing title in opposition to a Russian and Peter Konyegwachi additionally picked a silver medal within the featherweight class of the Los Angeles Video games in 1984, Nigerian boxers dominated the continent’s All Africa Video games and had been to reckoned with on the Commonwealth Video games. Boxing, certainly, as a sport, lifted the nation’s title as an rising energy within the candy science.

In different sports activities like Monitor and Subject, Nigeria’s actual first Olympic Video games medal was achieved on the 1984 Video games in Los Angeles when Harmless Egbunike ran a blistering anchor leg of the 4x400m to win the bronze behind USA and silver medalists Britain. Earlier than then, medals of a number of colors have been achieved at each the All Africa Video games and the Commonwealth Video games.

Nevertheless, Nigeria’s iconic second in athletics got here on the 1996 Video games in Atlanta when Chioma Ajunwa did the unimaginable, profitable the Girls’s Lengthy Bounce occasion gold with 7:12m file forward a area of examined world champions. Falilat Ogunkoya gained a person bronze medal within the 400m behind French lady, Marie Jose Perec and Cathy Freeman of Australia.

4 years earlier at Barcelona ’92, Nigeria’s 4x100m males quartet gave the world jitters, profitable the silver medal behind Crew USA in an African file. The Mary Onyali-led ladies’s dash relay additionally gained the bronze and the way by which they celebrated that feat stays one of many highlights of that version in Spain and is properly captured in photographs within the Olympic museum.

It was nonetheless not till the Sydney 2000 Video games in Australia that Nigeria’s 4x400m anchored by Enefiok Udo-Obong ran the race of their lives to win the silver medal that was later elevated to gold. The Crew USA 4x400m relay quartet anchored by Michael Johnson was disqualified after Antonio Pettigrew was discovered to have failed dope check. Though he did not race within the ultimate, working within the semi ultimate was sufficient to take the gold from the People and given to the workforce led by the late Sunday Bada, Clement Chukwu, Enefiok Udo-Obong, Jude Monye and Fidelis Tafida Gadzama.

In fact, Glory Alozie additionally gained a silver within the 100m hurdles on the similar Sydney 2000. The Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008) model contributed medals to Nigeria’s whole haul. Blessing Okagbare, who has remained the nation’s largest title within the sport within the final 12 years, emerged on the Beijing Olympics. After the journey to the quadrennial Video games within the Far East, medals have dried up for Nigeria up to now regardless of two outings in London (2012) and Rio 2016.

In soccer, the ‘king’ of sport, Nigeria has recorded just a few international firsts.

In cadet U17, Nigeria stays the undisputed champions in 5 editions, beginning with the inaugural version in China in 1985. Golden Eaglets have repeated the feat in 1993, 2007, 2013 and 2015.

With three AFCON titles in 1980, 1994 and 2013, the senior nationwide workforce, the Tremendous Eagles, have earned respect within the continent. They’ve additionally made respectable outings on the Mundial since their debut at USA ’94. Though the workforce’s greatest efficiency stay a second spherical showings.

Rising as the primary African nation to win the Olympic males’s soccer at Atlanta ’96, maybe, stays the largest honour for Nigeria within the stunning sport.

Dream Crew, as Nwankwo Kanu-led squad was referred to as, earned a spot amongst the best moments in Nigerian sports activities historical past.

Glittering on a large wall contained in the Atlanta Olympic Stadium, embossed in gold letters, are the names of 22 Nigerian soccer gamers who put up a few of the most spectacular and most entertaining soccer shows of any trendy Olympics in historical past. They performed in opposition to two of the strongest groups on the planet on the time: Argentina and Brazil, and got here out victorious in grandest type.

The gamers who made the feat potential included; Sunday Oliseh, Victor Nosa Ikpeba, Mobi Oparaku, Tijani Babangida, Daniel Amokachi, Emmanuel Amuneke, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Celestine Babayaro, Emmanuel Babayaro, Dosu Joseph and so forth.

Our ladies’s senior workforce have additionally dominated the continent and made appearances on the World Cup for the reason that first version in China in 1991.

Regardless of these many achievements, what then went improper within the final decade that it has turn out to be virtually inconceivable to copy these feats of Nigeria’s golden moments?

Based on Chief Segun Odegbami, a former Inexperienced Eagles star, unlucky circumstances subsumed the Nationwide Sports activities Fee (NSC) that was creating sports activities from the early 1970s and doing an amazing job into the Ministry of Data, Youth and Sports activities, round 1991 or 1992. That was the period of Isaac Akioye as Director of Sports activities on the fee.

“The places of work of the Director of Sports activities of the NSC (a area technician) with that of the Director of Sports activities within the ministry (a civil servant) turned one.