The Nigeria Pillar of
Sports, Chief Donatus Agu-Ejidike, JP has expressed optimism about Nigeria recording better achievements in sports in the year 2023, than it had in 2022, as he called on Sports administrators in Nigeria to turn the fortunes of the country around for the better in the new year.
This was contained in Chief Donatus Agu Ejidike’s new year message as he reflected on the results recorded by the country’s representatives at different sports in which the country competed in the out gone year.
The former President of Karate Federation of Nigeria, recalled that the year 2022 was not a particularly memorable one for the sports-loving Nigerians, especially in football.
He reflected that Nigeria’s inability to qualify for the just-concluded FIFA World Cup, in Qatar, losing out to an eternal rival in her West African neighbour – Ghana, on “away goal”, after playing 1-1 aggregate over two legs was not too good for a talented nation like Nigeria even as the ignominious story was preceded by an abysmal outing in the delayed African Cup of Nations – ‘Cameroon 2021,’ played in January 2022, where the Super Eagles failed to make it beyond the 2nd round.
The senior female national team, the Super Falcons too, failed by their own standard to record a podium finish in the African Women Nations Cup (AWCON) hosted by Morocco. They did not only lose in the semi-final to the host Morocco via penalty shootout, but also lost the 3rd place match, 1-0, to the Shepolopolo of Zambia, which by their own standard was the poorest outing in the history of their participation in the competition.
There were however, some positive results from which the country can draw inspiration, going into the new year. The female Under-20 national team, the Super Falconets did relatively well in the World Cup in Costa Rica, reaching the quarter-finals, before losing to their Dutch counterparts. Ditto for Under-17, which won bronze at the world Cup, India 2022.
Super Eagles and Napoli attacker, Victor Osimhen was named the ’emerging player of the year’ at the 2022 Globe Soccer Awards. Super Falcons and FC Barcelona goal poacher, Asisat Oshoala became the first woman to win the Confederation of African Football (CAF) player of the year for a fifth time.
Meanwhile, Aruna Quadri in Table Tennis, became the first African to rank among the top 10 table tennis players in the world, while his compatriot, Taiwo Mati won the U-19 title at ITTF African Youth Championship.
The African reigning Queen of the track, Tobiloba Amusan had a stellar 2022 where she delivered brilliant performances at the Diamond League, Commonwealth Games, and World Athletics Championships. She narrowly lost the women Athlete-of-the-year award to American women’s 400-meter hurdler, Sydney McLaughlin Levrone.
Ese Brume remains one of Nigeria’s most consistent athletes, and her exploits in 2022 pushed her further ahead of the country’s pile of athletes.
Teenage track sensation, Favour Ofili had a breakout year on the track. The 19-year-old broke Blessing Okagbare’s national record in the women’s 200m sprint when she dipped a sensational 21.96 seconds at the Tom Jones Memorial in May.
Chioma Onyekwere became the first Nigerian woman in history to win a CWG gold medal in discus, with a throw of 61.70m. She also won gold at the African Athletics Championship in Mauritius earlier in the year. Blessing Oborodudu defeated Canada’s Morais Linda to claim the gold medal in women’s wrestling at the 2022 CWG in Birmingham. Oborududu also dominated the 68 kg category, and her gold in England ensured she continued the brilliant form that helped her win Nigeria’s first-ever wrestling gold at the Olympics in 2021.
Odunayo Adekuruoye overcame the disappointment of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and wrestled for the gold medal in the 57 kg category class of women’s wrestling at the 2022 CWG.
Against all odds, the much touted National Sports Festival was also held in Asaba, Delta State where budding talents showcased their dexterity in various sporting events.
These achievements by Nigerians in sports in the year 2022 notwithstanding, Ejidike believed that Nigeria could still have done better, but he remained upbeat that the bitter lessons of the outcome year could be turned into useful experiences for better results in the coming year and beyond.
The sports philanthropist commends the efforts of those who brought honours to the country, and charges them to do more, for” Nigeria is the only country we can call our own”.
He also congratulated the newly inaugurated leaders of the different sports associations, like the Nigerian Football Association (NFF), the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF), among others, on their victories during their respective elections.
He appealed to the leaderships of different sporting associations to always work for the overall development of sports in the country.
He noted that, doing this would make the industry vibrant enough to be able to engage the energies of our teeming youths, and channel same into positive ventures.
This according to the Nnewi-born business mogul, would take their attention away from crime, and reduce, if not eradicate insecurity that currently bedevils the nation.
Nigeria could be greater and become center of attraction if sporting activities are promoted and developed in the words of Chief Donatus Agu Ejidike as he prayed for a prosperous year.