For Nigerian sports the year 2022 was characterised by moments of celebration and moments of gloom.
While many might not see it as a successful year for the sports industry, there are some remarkable events that brought smiles to the faces of sports lovers in Nigeria and will never be forgotten.
The eventful recollections can be listed as such:
1. The national senior football team, the Super Eagles losing the 2022 World Cup qualification ticket to Ghana.
The Super Eagles losing the 2022 World Cup ticket to Ghana
Eagles lost 2022 World Cup Ticket to Ghana due to poor tactics. Recall that in March, the Super Eagles crashed out of the world football showpiece after failing to beat arch rivals, Ghana at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.
Although the match ended 1-1 in Abuja, and 1-1 on aggregate, the away goal by Ghana secured the World Cup ticket for the Black Stars. That goal counted double in the event that the match ended 1-1. The Eagles thus faltered at the last hurdle with almost everything in their favour.
Reacting to the team’s elimination in an exclusive interview in March, Former Kwara United coach, Samson Unuanel, told Completesports.com that Eguavoen should have switched his tactics when the game was not going in his team’s favour. “This is a game we should have.”
The Super Eagles had, in the first leg, failed to defeat the Black Stars on the latter’s home ground in Kumasi. The match ended a goalless draw. In consequence, the result sent the Black Stars of Ghana through to Qatar, having scored an away goal in Abuja.
2. FG suspending basketball for two years:
It has been a tumultuous year for basketball in Nigeria after the Federal Government, in May, suspended the sport in Nigeria for two years.
Although in June, government rescinded its decision to suspend Nigeria’s basketball teams from all international competitions, the period will go down as unforgettable in the history books of the sports industry.
The ban came on the heels of the unending crisis plaguing the sector, as the Minister of Sports Sunday Dare claimed that the sport needed revamping from the grassroots, as well as the domestic leagues to see it thrive again.
3. Tobi Amusan’s 12.12 seconds at the World Athletics Championship:
Tobi Amusan, the 25-year-old Nigerian sprinter, stunned the athletics world with a record time of 12.12 seconds in the semi-finals at the event, breaking the six-year-old record held by USA’s Kendra Harrison. She became the first Nigerian world champion at the World Athletics Championships, with a gold medal in the 100m hurdles.
Speaking shortly after setting the world record, Amusan stressed the time was not her priority but the gold medal. “The goal was to come out and to win this gold,” she said. “Honestly, I believe in my abilities, but I was not expecting a world record at these championships.”
Nigerian sprinter, Tobi Amusan was one personality that brought smiles to the faces of Nigerians this year, breaking records at various global and continental competitions she participated in.
This year, Tobi Amusan was conferred in Abuja with the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) national honour by President Muhammadu Buhari. The Confederation of African Athletics (CAA), on Tuesday, 20th December 2022, named Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan as Africa’s Best Female Athlete for the Year 2022.
The Nigerian sprint hurdler is affectionately called ‘Tobi Express’.
4. Flamingos qualify for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup semi-final for the first time:
In October, Nigeria’s junior national womens’ football team, the Flamingos became the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup, after defeating the United States in sensational fashion.
The Bankole Olowookere-led girls achieved the feat after defeating the United States 4-3 on penalties at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.
It was after 90 minutes of football had ended 1-1, the game was decided via penalty shootout with the Flamingos triumphing 4-3 to qualify for a first-ever semi-final place.
Even though they would go ahead to lose against Colombia in the Semi-final and claim the bronze medal in the third place, breaking the semi-final jinx itself was historical.
5. Successful 21st National Sports Festival, Delta 2022:
The 21st National Sports Festival tagged Delta 2022 was successfully held in Delta state. The festival held from November 28 to December 10, with athletes in participation from 36 states plus the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, jostling for the first position on the medals table.
Team Delta were officially declared winners of the 21st National Sports Festival in Asaba, the state capital.
Delta won 320 gold, 200 silver and 128 bronze medals to edge out 35 other states and the Federal Capital Territory and stay atop the Nigerian apex sports fiesta.
Delta’s neighbours, Bayelsa, came second with 132 gold, 115 silver and 90 bronze medals, followed by another of their neighbours, Edo, which hosted the festival’s 20th edition. Edo won 78 gold, 94 silver and 167 bronze medals to make it a South-South affair in the top-three ranking.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that no fewer than 14,000 athletes participated in 38 sports at the festival.
The next edition will hold in 2024 in Ogun State.
It is worth noting that at the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970, the unity of the country was seriously threatened. The then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, initiated the National Sports Festival in 1973 as a platform to bring together youths from all parts of the country to compete, using sports as a tool to achieve national healing after the brutal 30-month civil war.