2014: NIGERIA'S SPORTS IN REVIEW

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The year 2014 will go down as very eventful in terms of sports in Nigeria. It was indeed a busy year. Nigerians competed with their counterparts over the world and even domestically among themselves. In fact, 2014 was a year of sports galore and Nigerian sportsmen and women were busy for most part of the year. Yet, the thrills and the spills, the joys and heartbreaks and the pains and glories were not missing at all. What I could sum as the good, the bad and the ugly.

To start, a feel of the sporting activities that had occurred within the year will better place one to extraying the good, the bad and the ugly. First, the year began with Nigerian football clubs participating in continental qualifying matches, with Kano Pillars and Bayelsa representing the country. Between January 25 and February 10, the home based Super Eagles participated in the CHAN African Nations Cup, where they came out third. Also, there was the world cup in Brazil- the 2014 World Cup, which took place from June 12 to July 13, with Nigeria participating and was knocked out by France in the second round. Still on football, there was the FIFA U-17 Women World Cup that occurred in Costa Rica, with Nigeria reaching the quarterfinal, as well as the U-20 version in Canada, where Nigeria narrowly lost in the final to Germany. Also, the Super Falcons were not left out since they also participated and won in the African Women championship that occurred in November in Namibia.

There was also a good number of multi-sports events, with the biggest being the Glasglow 2014 Commonwealth games, which took place from August 3-24. Nigeria had a relatively good outing in the games. Following this, there was the African Athletics Championship in Marrakech, Morrocco. In this championship, Nigeria was not left out. Also, there was the African Youth Games in Gaborone, which Nigeria participated in.

Within the country, sporting activities like the National School Sports festival occured, with over 1000 student athletes from the 36 states of the federation. There was also the National Wrestling Championship at Yenagoa. Also, Lagos hosted during December the Copa Lagos Beach Soccer tournament that had the Barcelona's beach soccer side participating. With this, we can extray the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good:
No doubt, Nigeria was able to hold his own as she competed with other countries. 2014 recorded some good showing in sports for Nigeria. Yes, Nigerians rattled the world with top-notch performances in many competitions they participated in. At the Commonwealth games in Glasgow, Nigerian athletes were fantastic and came home with gold medals. Blessing Okagbare was notable and outstanding. She won gold medals in 100, setting a Commonwealth Games record of 10.85 second, and 200 meters at the games and capped a glorious year with another gold at the African Athletics Championship in Marrakech, Morocco. In Glasgow, Nigerian weightlifters, wrestlers and powerlifters also won gold. Mariam Usman won gold in weightlifting. The duo of Esther Onyema and Loveline Obiji won gold and also, set world records in power lifting. Mention must be made of Haruna Quadri who also got a medal at glasgow and currently is one of the world's top rankef players in table tennis. Many silver and bronze medals were won too. In all, Nigeria came out with the 8th position in the games, which was itself impressive. Important to note this time is that Nigeria within the year held sway over the continent in table tennis, wrestling, athletics and scrabble.

On the football side of sports, Nigeria gave a good account. In CHAN, though it was her first outing, Nigeria took the bronze medal. In the world cup, Nigeria reach the round of 16, which was the stage Africa as a continent could reach. It is considered good in that it is a stage Nigeria hardly reach in such a great tournament. On women's angle, Nigeria recorded impressive outings, reaching the quarterfinal in U-17 World Cup and clinching the silver in U-20. The Super Falcons went on to cap the efforts of the women by eventually clinching the gold medal in Namibia-hosted African Women Championship (AWC).

At Gaborone, Nigeria came 3rd behind South Africa and Egypt. Nigeria at the games won 19 gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze medals.

The Bad:
When we talk of the bad, we cannot but remember Chika Amalaha's drug scandal at Glasgow. The 16 year old, Chika Amalaha, a weightlifter who competed in 53kg category and won gold, tested positive to a banned substance. As a result, her gold was stripped from her and the aura for other Nigerians during the games became ominous. Consequent upon this, a top Nigerian weightlifting official, Dr. Steve Olarinoye lost his bid for a place in the board of Commonwealth Weightlifting Federation. The drug saga place Nigeria in a negative spotlight.

Another bad is the humilation shown to Nigerian young athletes who travelled to China to compete with others because of Ebola, after putting up a good show in the African Youth Games at Gaborone. They were quarantined from others and this caused a psychological humilation for these athletes.

At the CAF clubs' competitions, Nigerian representatives, Kano Pillars and Bayelsa United did not fared better. They were quickly knocked out in the first round. The most devastating to many Nigerian fans was the failure of their darling Super Eagles to qualify for Equitorial Guinea 2015 AFCON. It was like a stab to the heart from a friend akin to Brutus's stab to Cesar. In fact, the failure of Nigeria not to qualify was the height of the 'bads' in sports in 2014.

Another bad is the failure to hold the National Sports Festival in Calabar, Cross River state. A festival originally designed to be part of the nation's centenary anniversary celebration. Unfortunately, the games was postponed to 2015 for some flimsy reasons known to the National Sports Commission.

The Ugly:
The ugly remains the crisis that rocked the Nigerian football federation since after Brazil 2014 World Cup, which took its toll of effects on the Super Eagles. Greed and inglorious in-fighting of Nigerian football officials marred the country's image in the World football and attracted threats of lengthy bans from FIFA. The crisis even led to the firw incidence at the White House at Abuja, the NFF headquarters. The last has not being heard from the NFF crisis. Currently, Barrister Iyke Igbokwe is making the seats at NFF hotter for the occupants, who have been found to have been illegally occupied by the Chairman, NFF Electoral Committee. While this crisis lingers on, the disgrace attracted to Nigerians cannot be understated.

In sum, despite the bad and the ugly in 2014, the good that has occurred in the said period is something to rejoiced of and perfect on. The year has not totally been a bad and ugly one. Rather, the bad and the ugly have only showed that Nigeria has yet to reach its potentials in sports. Something we as a country can work on in the coming year with the view of reaching the great heights we are capable of. Important to reaching this objectives are the Nigerian sports officials, whose hands must be on deck to ensuring that the plans for this are fine-tuned, the funds are adequately supplied and bureaucratic studs are not planted. With this in place, Nigeria will prevail in sports in the coming year, 2015.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Paul Iregbenu and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Paul Iregbenu