‘Athletes are trained to see positives in all situations’
Competing in his first senior tournament for Nigeria, Raymond Ekevwo braved the odds to win the 100m for men at the 2019 African Games in Rabat, Morocco. Speaking with CHARLES OGUNDIYA in Rabat, Ekevwo said moving to the United States changed his career as an athlete. Excerpts…
2019 has been a good year for you, capping it up with the African Games gold medal in the 100m, how do you feel?
It’s a great feeling that I can’t really explain. It’s been a rough and good year, I just want to thank God for the season. With the gold medal, you have now joined the league of other athletes like Chidi Imoh, Davidson Ezenwa, Deji Aliu and Olusoji Fasuba who all won gold at the African Games.
What does this mean to you?
I am happy, just that it is putting your head around what you want to do and keep working towards achieving it; one day you will get it right. That has been the thing between my coach and myself. Just pushing me on the track each day to go for the best I could ever be. He did his best for me to come to Morocco, to do what needed to be done and the result was the gold I won.
Along with another Nigeria sprinter, Divine Oduduru, do you think it would have been a clean sweep for Nigeria with your compatriot, Usheotitse Itsekiri, winning the bronze medal? It is basically the same thing but I cannot really predict the outcome of the result if he had run.
Seriously, it is a good thing running alongside all these great athletes; they are great competitors, running against them is an honour and great opportunity for me to even come out as a winner. I am happy to be among them and hopefully in the future, it will keep on getting better and better.
This was your first senior championship for Nigeria and you won the gold medal: what your words do you have for the country?
I just want to say God bless Nigeria.
I just hope our federation, the ministry and the country as a whole will come out with better plans of supporting the athletes because when they do that, they will be getting better performance and results from the athletes. I just hope they can do more for the athletes than they are doing at the moment. We need a lot of support to perform better.
With the performance in Morocco, would you say this will be what to expect at the IAAF World Championships next month in Doha?
The thing for me is that I don’t go for any race with much expectations. I just go there, execute what I learned in training, what my coach taught me before the race and I know when I do the right thing, I always get results. Going for the World Championships, I will be going there to do what I need to do to get a good outing and result.
How did track and field start for you?
I started track and field as a career in 2014 after I finished from secondary school. Before then, I was competing in my school during inter-house sports and the likes, but I didn’t take it seriously as a career. Since 2014 when I started fully, it has been a steady progression for me and I really want to say a big thank you to God for the opportunity and the talent given to me.
What has the support been like from your parents?
I want to say thank you to them; they have been there for me in every phase of my life. They have been there for me all these years right from school and also my career as a track and field athlete. They gave me the best life could offer.
Their support financially, their prayers and all took me to where I am today. They have been my greatest supporter.
You moved to the United States two years ago, how does it feel returning home to compete for Nigeria, meeting old and new teammates?
We are Nigerians, we are always a family. Anytime we are together as a team, we just show love to one another as a family.
Anytime we are around to compete for the he country, we are always there for one another in anyway we can. It’s amazing that anytime you come to camp, you meet someone you didn’t even know before and you relate with each other. It’s always a good thing. We give each other support and encouragement. I will love to appreciate my teammates for their support always.
How difficult or easy was it for you competing in Nigeria before moving abroad?
It was never easy trying to make it as an athlete in Nigeria. But as a Nigerian, we were trained to adapt to any situation we found ourselves in, whether good or bad. We always sees positives in all situations and we give it our best. That’s the spirit that has been helping me to the level I am at today.
Would you say going to the USA has helped in shaping your career?
It has been really fantastic for me. Going to the University of Florida has been a major change in my life. I want to say thank you to the school for that great opportunity; the school is part of the success story alongside my coach, my trainer, and teammates in school. What would you tell those athletes back at home still struggling to make ends meet and want to make it in track and field?
They should never give up no matter how difficult it is. They should continue to work very hard and very soon, they will get the results. Hard work pays and they just have to continue the good work. I want to tell everyone out there to keep working hard, not just athletes alone, but all people trying to achieve one thing or another.
Why did you choose track and field and not any other sport?
It has always been my passion. It all started when I was a child, I loved running and chasing people and things around. Track and field is interesting. There is more to it because it teaches you a lot of things: how to be alone, to be strong, interact with people and so on. It teaches you basically about life.
How do you combine education and athletics?
It is tough but in my school, there is a sort of platform whereby you could easily marry the two together.
They provide everything needed to make sure you perform well academically and on the track and field.
So what are you studying at the moment in the US?
I am at the moment studying African/ American studies but I am trying to change to criminology. Why didn’t you choose something close to sports? Sports is an angle and my life is another. They are two different things entirely.
When I get out of track, I am out of it all together and my life will begin.
While growing up, I always want to be a lawyer.
That has been my ambition as a child, but with track and field, it is very difficult to do that. However with criminology, I am a step closer to achieving my goal of becoming a lawyer.
Although after my track and field career, I still have the mind of going back to pursue my first dream, to become a lawyer.
Out of the guys in the US, who are your favourite friends?
I don’t call them friends anymore, they are my family because they are the closest I have as a family out there.
The likes of Aniekeme Alphonsus and the rest.
What does the future hold for you as an athlete and as an individual?
Honestly I don’t know how it is going to be, I just want to leave everything to God, I want to continue to work hard and also be prayerful.
Finland makes history, qualifies for Euro 2020
Finland will play in a major tournament for the first time in their history as victory over Liechenstein secured qualification for Euro 2020.
Jasse Tuominen’s fist-half strike and a Teemu Pukki double in Helsinki means the Eagle-owls will finish second in Group J, behind winners Italy.
It ended a run of 32 failed qualifying campaigns for either the World Cup or European Championship.
The win sparked scenes of celebration at screenings across Helsinki, reports the BBC.
Crowds gathered at a huge screen in the capital while a viewing party was hosted in the city by Premier League side Norwich City, whose striker Pukki has become the talisman of Finland’s qualifying campaign with nine goals.
His exploits for club and country have given birth to the #PukkiParty trend on social media and the Canaries are hosting an official Pukki Party in a Helsinki night club on Friday. They even opened a pop-up Norwich City store in the city to capitalise on the interest in their star striker.
African champions, Algeria, begin title defence with rout of Zambia
Algeria thrashed Zambia 5-0 on Thursday in a successful start to the defence of their continental crown, winning their opening qualifier for the 2021 African Cup of Nations 117 days after lifting the trophy.
Baghdad Bounedjah scored twice, one from the penalty spot, with Ramy Bensebaini, Youssef Belaili and substitute El Arabi Hilal Soudani completing a pleasing performance for the home fans in Blida.
Thomas Partey’s long-range shot gave Ghana the lead and 19-year-old debutant Mohammed Kudus added the second in a 2-0 home win over South Africa in Cape Coast, but Egypt, who hosted the finals this year, were held 1-1 at home by Kenya, reports Reuters.
Mohamed Salah’s absence due to an ankle injury left Egypt looking ineffective in attack although they did take the lead when Mahmoud Kahraba picked up on a weak back pass.
Michael Olunga stunned the home crowd in Alexandria with a 67th-minute equaliser for Kenya.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang captained Gabon as they forced a goalless draw away to Democratic Republic of Congo in Kinshasa while Mali twice surrendered the lead as they were held 2-2 by Guinea, for who Naby Keita scored their first goal.
The Comoros Islands, who only became FIFA members in 2005, notched their first away win in a competitive international as Faiz Selemani scored early in the second half to beat Togo 1-0 in Lome.
The small Indian Ocean island nation host Egypt on Monday, looking to keep up their giant-killing start in Group G.
Mozambique beat Rwanda 2-0 at home in Thursday’s other qualifier.
Qualifiers continue through to Tuesday, by which time each of the 48 participating countries will have played two matches each.
The top two in each of the 12 groups advance to the finals, to be hosted in Cameroon in mid-2021.
Musa raises the alarm over synthetic pitch in Lesotho
…insists Eagles’ll take maximum points
Super Eagles skipper Ahmed Musa has voiced out the concerns of his teammates who will play on the synthetic pitch when they face Lesotho in Maseru in their second 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifying match on Sunday.
Eagles will be looking to consolidate on their 2-1 win over Benin Republic in their campaign opener in Uyo when they face Lesotho on Sunday but the Al Nasr of Saudi forward said it was going to be a difficult game for his side because they will play on a surface that they are quite unfamiliar with.
”We are going to play on an artificial pitch; it is not that easy because some of the players are not used to playing on synthetic pitch.
”But we know what everybody expects from us so we are going there to do our best to win,” he said.
Ranked 138th in the latest FIFA ranking, Lesotho registered an impressive 1-1 draw against hosts Sierra Leone (117th) in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers Group L opener in Freetown and Musa insisted his side could pick all points in Maseru.
”As you can see, it was a tough game for the team today but at the end of 90 minutes, we have three points so we are going over there to have another win because we know that the game is going to be very tough.”
Musa played a bit part role in the victory over Benin Republic after he came on late in the game and the skipper said he had no problem with playing from the bench if that would help the team.
“For me, I don’t have to play. If the coach wants me to play I will play but if he does not, I won’t. For me, I advised we can start the team that played against Brazil because they played very good.
“As you can see, the young players are coming up and we have to give them a lot of chance. Maybe Musa is not going to be here for a long time so we have to start grooming lots of them.
“Captaincy changes nothing for me,” he said.
ANOCA secretariat inaugurated as minister breaks 10-year-old jinx
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare, broke a 10-year-old jinx as he led an international delegation with the President of the International Olympics Committee (IOC), Dr. Thomas Bach to commission the Secretariat of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa ( ANOCA).
The Minister said: “This is a landmark in the development of sports on the continent of Africa. It is a day that the entire black race should be proud of. And as Nigerians, we are proud to be a major contributor to the actualization of this day.
“Aside the obvious fact of the Commissioning of the Building that would from today be the administrative and technical hub of sports administration on the continent, we also have in our midst, the leaders of the world governing body for sports, ably led by the President of the International Olympic Committee, Dr. Thomas Bach.
“The journey to this day started some 13 years ago when Nigeria alongside 6 other African countries bided to host the Headquarters of ANOCA and become the Olympic capital of Africa. After a rigorous selection process, Nigeria was eventually selected as the Host Country for the umbrella body of the Olympic movement in Africa at the General Assembly, which took place in Kenya in June, 2006.
“With the selection and signing of the Headquarters Cooperation Agreement on February 21, 2007, the ANOCA Secretariat, hitherto in Yaoundé, Cameroon was moved to Abuja, Nigeria.”
“While biding as a Host Country, the Federal Republic Nigeria had promised to build a benefiting Headquarters for the continental body. On the road to fulfilling that promise, the foundation laying ceremony for the building was performed on July 6, 2009, by Dr. Jacques Rogge, the immediate past President of the International Olympic Committee.
“I must say we are indeed lucky to also have present here today to commission the building, the current President of the IOC, Dr. Thomas Bach.
“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the commitment of Nigeria to the completion of this edifice has been unwavering. It is for this reason that the Federal Government ensured the continued funding of the project from inception to completion.
“It is my sincere hope that the vision for which the project was executed would be achieved for the benefit of all Stakeholders,” he said.
The Minister, who earlier conducted the IOC delegation around the MKO Abiola Stadium, revealed that “After 10 years of trying to get approval for the domestication of the anti-doping bill, yesterday the Federal Executive Council approved the domestication of that convention, that is historic.”
D’Tigress starts FIBA Africa Pre-Olympics qualifiers on winning note
‘Tigress started their FIBA Africa Pre-Olympics Qualifiers started on a winning note after strolling over DR Congo, 20-0 points.
The Coach Otis Hughley side performed a walk over ceremony over DR Congo who failed to show up for the competition holding in Maputo, Mozambique.
Currently ranked first in Africa and 16th in the world, the team shot to the top of group A with one match to go.
The reigning African Champions will now shift their attention to their last group game against Mozambique on Saturday after booking an automatic semi final ticket.
Winners of the semi final encounters will qualify for the Olympics Qualifying Tournament to be held next year.
It would be recalled that Hughley settled for Ezinne Kalu, Promise Amukamara, Elo Edema, Atonye Nyingifa, Sarah Imovbioh and Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpannah.
Others include Upe Atosu, Aisha Balarabe, Evelyn Akhator, Ifunnanya Ibekwe, Adaora Elonu and Victoria Macaulay.
Massive team spirit earned us victory – Abdullahi
Super Eagles defender and Bursaspor SK player, Shehu Abdullahi, has shown gratitude to fans and teammates saying the team’s mentality helped Eagles to defeating the Squirrels of Benin Republic in an African Cup of Nations qualifier on Wednesday.
The team was extremely cheered by fans despite their inability to net a goal very early, which turned out for good.
The 2016 Olympic Games bronze medalist, took to his Twitter handle and he tweeted thus: “Great win yesterday, massive team Spirit. Big thanks to Uyo fans, even when we were down, they kept supporting the team. Unto the next game against Lesotho”
Meanwhile, Abdullahi has been able to score a goal for his Turkish side; Bursaspor SK despite being a defender out of 11 games played for the 2019/2020 season.
The team are set to face Lesotho later and have high hopes to qualify for the 2021 AFCON.
Uyo return delights Troost-Ekong
William Troost-Ekong has taken to social media to express his joy over the return of Super Eagles back to Godswill Akpabio Stadium.
Since November 2018, the national team has played at Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, but it has never been the best playing experience.
On their return, Nigeria came out 2-1 victors over Benin Republic in their first match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
“Good to start our Afcon 2021 campaign with a win. Always special to play on home soil in Uyo!,” Troost-Ekong tweeted.
The 26-year old was born to a Nigerian father who hails from Akwa Ibom State and a Dutch mother.
The Super Eagles lead Group L and travel down south on Sunday to face Lesotho – who drew 1-1 at Sierra Leone in Wednesday’s other fixture.
GOtv Boxing Night Mini takes centre stage
Awave of excitement is washing over boxing fans, as the first edition of GOtv Boxing Night Mini nears. The show, which holds on Saturday at the Rowe Park Sports Complex, Yaba, Lagos, is heavily anticipated by fans, who have adopted many of the boxers scheduled to be in action.
Fans interviewed at Yaba, Ojuelegba and Surulere areas of Lagos during the week expressed delight that the boxing show is close and will afford them the opportunity of watching some of the country’s top boxers in action.
Rafiu Dehinde, a fan who idolizes Rilwan “Real One” Oladosu, reigning West African Boxing Union (WABU) lightweight champion, said he is delighted with the opportunity to see the boxer in action again.
“I had hoped to see him fight Oto “Joe Boy” Joseph for the African Boxing Union (ABU) title, but Joe Boy got injured and the fight has been postponed. But I’m happy that he is on the bill because he’s such a good and stylish boxer,” said Dehinde.
Chiedu Abaeneme, a fan of Kabiru “KB Godson” Towolawi, is equally thrilled, saying the boxer is famous around Bariga where residents are ready to troop to the show venue to cheer him to victory.
“KB is well known in Bariga because he’s a good boxer and a nice man. Many people from Bariga will be there to cheer him to victory and watch other boxers,” he said.
Folashade Ogundipe, a female amateur boxer, said she’s happy that the show will feature female boxers.
She said: “I’m happy that female boxers will participate. Female boxers have had few opportunities at the professional level. GOtv Boxing Night Mini has given us hope that we are not being ignored.”
GOtv Boxing Night Mini will feature five explosive bouts. Oladosu will take on Ola Adebakin in a national lightweight challenge, while Rilwan “Baby Face” Babatunde, West African Boxing Union (WABU) welterweight champion, will take on Dennis “The Range” Mba in a challenge duel.
Other bouts are the national cruiserweight challenge between Kabiru “KB Godson” Towolawi and Tunji “Germani” Olajide; national light welterweight challenge between Waheed “Showmax” Shogbamu and Semiu “Jagaban” Olopade as well as the all-female super featherweight challenge clash between Cynthia “Omo Bobby” Ogunsemilore and Omowunmi “Mummy’s Pet” Akinsanya.
We respect all opponents in Egypt – Imama
Nigeria need to defeat South Africa in their final Group B fixture at the Africa U-23 Cup of Nations, coach Imama Amapakabo has disclosed.
A win over the group leaders will seal the West Africans’ progress into the semi-finals and also boost their chances of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
South Africa are yet to taste defeat in the competition having settled for a goalless draw against Zambia in their opening fixture, before beating Ivory Coast 1-0 on Tuesday.
Nigeria, on their part, have overcome their poor start with a 3-1 win over Zambia and the former Enugu Rangers coach is looking forward to a big match at Al Salam Stadium as his team chases maximum points on Friday.
“Every game is a big game, we needed to win our opening game but unfortunately, we did not win,” Amapakabo said in the press conference in Egypt.
“We needed to win our second game, fortunately for us, we did win and we also need to win tomorrow.
“We pay utmost respect and attention to every team as I said from the onset, eight teams are here and every team deserves their place at the Olympics so we’ll respect every team, we hope to give it our best shot in tomorrow’s game.”
AFCON U-23: Olympics Eagles eye semis ticket
Nigeria will boost their chances of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games if they beat familiar foes South Africa in their last group game of the on-going CAF U-23 African Cup of Nation tie today.
The two sides revived their hopes of progressing after they won their last matches. The Dream Team who suffered a shocking 1-0 loss to Cote d’Ivoire in their opening game secured a convincing 3-1 win over Zambia on Tuesday.
South Africa had earlier played a 1-1 with Zambia but raced to the top of the group with a 1-0 win over the Junior Elephants.
The two sides are locked in an age-old battle that has seen the two clash at all age-group levels‚ with the Nigerians coming out on top more often than not.
Coach Imama Amapakabo knows they don’t only have to keep the tradition; they have to do that in style by defeating their opponents to stand a chance of progressing to the semifinal and boost their chances of going to Tokyo next year.
The Olympics Eagles have not been convincing with their display so far, they are yet to even win over the fans despite the 3-1 win over Zambia.
Taiwo Awoniyi who scored the third goal on Tuesday has been a big addition to the squad after missing out on the opening match due to club commitment and Mainz forward will be expected to lead the assault against South Africa.
South Africa are yet to concede a goal in this tournament and striker Teboho Mokoena is hopeful they can keep Nigeria at bay to get‚ at the very least‚ the point they need.
“Nigeria have a great side‚ we need to focus again and go with the same mentality‚” he said.
“We have kept two clean sheets‚ if we keep another one then we know we are into the next round. Then we know we are safe.”
The top two teams in each pool advance to the semifinals‚ while the finalists and bronze-medal winners will book their place at the Olympic Games next year.
Metro and Crime20 hours ago
General Overseer: Why I started selling unborn babies
News5 hours ago
Kogi guber: Makinde, Wada escape abduction
News12 hours ago
IGP appoints new CPs for Lagos, Ogun,5 other states
Energy11 hours ago
Why hike in cooking gas price may persist – Marketers
Sports20 hours ago
Musa raises the alarm over synthetic pitch in Lesotho
Metro and Crime20 hours ago
Robbers turn guns on POS operators in Ogun, Lagos
Politics13 hours ago
Bayelsa guber: Declare state of emergency in Nembe over killings – Diri
BREAKING NEWS13 hours ago
Ex-Information Minister, Alex Akinyele, is dead