At the start of the year, despite the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of hopes hinged on the return of sports as Nigerians yearned for normalcy to be returned in their social, economic and private lives.
The first major sporting event expected to somewhat kickstart the economy to an extent was the National Sports Festival which suffered several postponements till it finally held in April. Then the Olympic Games which Nigeria participated in put the country in a negative light.
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Trust Sports takes a cursory look at those events that either marred or made sports in Nigeria in the year 2021.
Edo govt threatened to shut down sports festival
Hardly had the 20th National Sports Festival begun that the host, Edo State Government threatened fire and brimstone to shut down the festival following the refusal of the federal government to support the state with funds.
It will be noted that the ‘Nigerian Olympics’ originally scheduled to hold in March 2020, finally held in April 2021, with Delta State retaining the title it has held since 2012.
The Edo deputy governor, Philip Shuaibu who was the chairman of the local organizing committee took out the threat and ordered the closure of offices belonging to the LOC and main organising committee (MOC).
The threat was not lifted until the federal government intervened with President Muhammadu Buhari pledging to make available the sum of N500 million to the Edo state government.
AFN leadership tussle
After the Tokyo Olympics was concluded, it was time for a new leadership to be elected to head Nigeria’s biggest sports federation, the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and end the protracted leadership tussle.
That failed to happen as on June 14, two presidents at different venues were elected to oversee the federation’s activities.
Tony Okowa was elected AFN president at the 2021 elective congress held at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.
In a parallel election held in Kebbi State, Ibrahim Shehu-Gusau was also elected as the federation’s president.
World Athletics has since confirmed that it only recognises the Okowa-led board and has established communication with the administration.
Team Nigeria Olympics campaign
Judging on the previous performances of Team Nigeria in past editions, little was expected from the contingent in Tokyo. As the Olympics got underway, the Nigerian camp was hit with some scandals which dragged the name of the country in the mud worldwide.
The first one happened few days to the commencement of the games and set the ugly tone for what to come when D’Tigers kits for the Games were being held by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).
The seized merchandise was shipped into the country by Peak, the teams’ kits sponsor with whom the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) has a four-year contract, but NCS withheld it at the Apapa seaport in Lagos.
The kits were not released until July 16 — a few days till D’Tigers were billed to play their first game in Tokyo.
With the dust fully to settle down, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) disqualified 10 Nigerian track and field athletes for failing to comply with the out-of-competition testing (OCT) requirement.
AIU said Nigeria is among countries deemed to have the highest doping risk, and the athletes were expected to undergo “at least three no-notice out-of-competition tests (urine and blood) conducted no less than three weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event”.
The 10 disqualified athletes fell short of the required number of tests and were thereby disqualified. The affected athletes — Knowledge Omovoh, Ruth Usoro, Favor Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma, Glory Patrick, Yinka Ajayi, Tima Godbless, Chidi Okezie, Chioma Onyekwere and Annette Echikunwoke — later took to the streets of Tokyo to protest the disqualification caused by the incompetence of Nigerian authorities.
As Nigerians were battling with the ugly scenario coming in from Tokyo, it was reported again that officials of the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC) refused to give the disqualified athletes the Samsung phones due to them. The Samsung S20+ 5G was a souvenir for all athletes that took part in the Olympics.
Officials of the NOC were said to have collected the phones for Team Nigeria but refused to distribute them to some of the athletes. The phones were later given to the affected athletes after the alarm was raised and an outcry ensued.
On the eve of the final shot-put event at the Tokyo Olympics, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi posted a video on Instagram.
In the short footage that would later go viral, he was seen washing his jersey ahead of the shot-put final that was just a few hours away. “When you qualify for Olympic Finals, but you have only one jersey,” he captioned the post.
This video was a fallout of power tussle between a factional board of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and the sports ministry who failed to allow Nigerian athletes to wear the Puma-branded apparel at Tokyo Olympics, arguing that it’s “a subject of a criminal investigation”.
D’Tigress protest unpaid allowances
After winning their third consecutive Afrobasket championship, D’Tigress released a video on the social media accusing the Nigeria Basketball Federation and Sports ministry of not paying them their allowances and bonuses while threatening to boycott call-ups to represent Nigeria for the 2022 World Cup qualification series if their demands were not met.
Their efforts however paid off as they have since been paid their outstanding allowances and are expected to represent Nigeria at the 2022 World Cup qualification.
Banyana Banyana stun Super Falcons in Lagos
The South African women national team shocked the Super Falcons in front of the home crowd in Lagos at the inaugural Aisha Buhari Cup in September, recording a 4-2 victory over the nine-time African champions.
Super Eagles upset by CAR, unpaid allowances
Central African Republic (CAR) did the unthinkable in Lagos when they stunned the three-time African champions in their World Cup qualifier. The 1-0 loss at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos was Nigeria’s first-ever defeat to the CAR.
Also, ahead of the double-headed friendly encounter against Cameroon in June, several players excused to be away from the game, claiming to be injured. It was said the players were owed several months of allowances and this was confirmed by the Nigeria Football Federation president, Amaju Pinnick.
Efe Ajagba, Israel Adesanya first career losses
Delta state-born Efe Ajagba was handed his first professional boxing career defeat in October as an undercard in the heavyweight title trilogy showdown between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.
In his bid to become the fifth fighter in UFC history to hold two titles concurrently, Israel Adesanya lost by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-45, 49-45) — marking his first career defeat. The loss brought his professional MMA career record to 20-1