BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Nigeria’s sports minister, Solomon Dalung on Wednesday in Lagos took a retrospective look at sports in Nigeria in the past two years especially that of 2017 and concluded that the country has had its own fair share of laurels.
Decked in his trademark green shirt and red beret, the minister told a gathering of sports journalists at the boardroom of the Nigeria Olympic Committee that the only direction sports in Nigeria faces this year and the years to come is upward.
He made a sport-by-sport analysis, touching on virtually all sports federations and the youth departments of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. In virtually all sports disciplines, Nigeria won medals.
One of the most remarkable ones, according to the comrade-minister is that of the Nigeria women hockey team which had not featured in any international tournament for about 14 years.
“But the team won bronze medal at the Africa Cup of Nations in Ismailia, Egypt last October”, said the minister. The highlights of the address touched on the feats in basket ball where the Nigerian team regained dominance of the sport in Africa.
In scrabble, Nigeria won the best country trophy at the World English Scrabble Championship, while is another lesser-followed sports, Rowing & Yachting, the country got a gold, six silver and five bronze medals at the continental championship in Morocco.
The same was the tale in taekwondo, table tennis, judo and tennis where the Nigerian teams made appreciable impact on the various medal logs.
In badminton, a sport that is fast gaining popularity among Nigerians following a resurgence of tournaments across the country, Nigeria won two bronze medals in mixed and individual events in South Africa, two gold medals at the Cote d’Ivoire tournament, three gold, a silver and two bronze medals at the Benin Republic tournament as well as a bronze at the Uganda Para-Badminton tournament.
Expectedly, football got the most attention, especially the country’s feat of being undefeated on the field of play throughout the World Cup qualifying series.
The Super Eagles qualified in a power-packed group, even with a match to spare. The feats of the Super Eagles’ B team in picking a ticket to the African Nations Championship as well as emerging runners-up in the resuscitated WAFU tournament were commended by the sports minister.
He also mentioned individual feats, especially the successes of various Nigerians at gaining membership in various international sports federations. The year was a bountiful harvest for the country, he remarked as virtually in every sport federation Nigerians made inroad.
He particularly commended the feat of Amaju Pinnick, the Nigerian Football Federation chieftain, who not only won election into CAF Executive Committee, but wielded much influence in global football.
“In football, Nigeria made a lot of progress both on and off the pitch. These include: The appointment of Amaju Pinnick, President of the NFF as President of AFCON, the committee responsible for the organisation of the Africa Cup of Nations as well as a Member of the Organizing Committee for FIFA Competitions – the most influential committee in world football after the FIFA Council”, said the sports minister who apart from commending the inclusion of other Nigerians in CAF committees also pointed at the appointment of Justice Ayotunde Philips (a former Chief Judge of Lagos State) into the FIFA Ethics Committee (Adjudicatory Chamber).