I n February, the senior national men’s team, D’Tigers, took part in the World Cup qualifiers in Angola and the team crumbled after three rounds of games. D’Tigers won two of their three games, to miss out on a place at the FIBA 2023 World Cup after finishing in fourth place in their group where the top three teams booked automatic spots. We recall Nigeria defeated Cote d’Ivoire 72-63 in the first game, ending the Ivoriens’ unbeaten run in the qualifiers before beating Guinea 62-59 in the second game.
However, before their third and final game against Angola, the final World Cup ticket had gone to Cape Verde but the Nigerians still put up a credible showing despite losing 65-59 to the hosts, Angola. While the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, praised the fighting spirit of the national team made up of home-based players, the Vice President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, Babs Ogunade, attributed the ouster to the administrative problems in the basketball family over the years.
He said: “Our failure to qualify was because of all the distractions and court cases affecting preparations and other logistics. It is unfortunate but we saw it coming because we were depending on the results of other people and not just our own.” We believe this is an unfortunate situation because the NBBF failed to put its house in order to prepare for the competition. It was difficult for the body to get the professional players involved just as the American coach, Mike Brown, was absent. How do we expect victory at the qualifiers? For the three World Cup qualifying windows we competed in, D’Tigers featured under different leadership. Ogoh Daudu led the team to Angola but two other coaches also under Brown were in charge in the two earlier windows.
The ticket cannot be won with all the logistics issues because the secretariat is not buoyant since the body relies on the ministry for funds. In the early part of Musa Kida’s tenure, the players enjoyed first-class treatment because he was a director at Total Oil. Things are different today as the camping and general welfare of the basketball national teams are poor. No doubt, Nigeria’s basketball is at the lowest ebb and something must be done to change the situation.
There is an urgent need to bring in more sponsors for the federation while all the stakeholders in the sport should come together to salvage the sport. Basketball that produced the legendary Akeem Olajuwon and also another former NBA star, Olumide Oyedeji, should not be a shambles in Nigeria. We call on all the stakeholders of the game to rally round Kida to save basketball. Kida, on the other hand, should not be deterred by all the problems that have piled up over the years; rather, he should be focused to right the wrongs so that basketball can get better in the country. Overall, sport is always interesting in many ways but not many are aware of what it takes to put a team together for a match or a tournament. So many activities are expected to take place in the secretariat of the federation governing various sports before a major competition.
In Nigeria, sport federations are expected to come up with a plan of activities to be staged in a calendar year. Sadly though, not many have calendars these days as some federations can go without any event in one or two years. Normally, there should be cadet, junior, intermediate and senior tournaments in each of the federations every year but because of poor finances this is not happening. All the categories are important because of the transition expected to take place across male and female categories with the aim of gradually developing the athletes to get better. However, a crisis is prevalent in the administration of sport in Nigeria. Election time is always as dicey as the general elections of the country. It could be recalled that the crisis in football at some point led to Nigeria’s absence in the Africa Cup of Nations twice.
The Amaju Pinnick board was in a legitimacy crisis with a Josbased administrator, Chris Giwa, and this affected many things in the administration of the game. Same goes for basketball as only last year, the leadership crisis prevented the national women’s basketball team, D’ Tigress, from representing Africa at the FIBA World Cup. It is the same crisis that did not allow the Women’s Basketball League being sponsored by Zenith Bank to take place in the last two years. The sponsors have the money to stage the event but the question of who is the legitimate president was an issue that aborted the event in recent times.
The crisis was resolved last year but it was too late for the women’s league to take place as the NBBF now looks up to April this year to revive the league. There must be a deliberate effort to help basketball to get better. Oyedeji and other former NBA stars should join hands to assist the current board of the NBBF to get it right. Nigeria is bigger than every individual and the future of budding stars of the game are at stake. The time to act is now.