• Sunday, February 25, 2024
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The highs and lows of Nigerian sports in 2023

Osimhen and Oshoala

Nigerian sports recorded mixed fortunes this year, including bans on some athletes and the emergence of two footballers as Africa’s best.

BusinessDay takes a look at how Nigerian sports fared in 2023.

Low points of Nigerian sports in 2023

Bans on athletes

In October, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) banned Nigerian athlete Grace Nwokocha, who won gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, for three years over the presence of prohibited substances Ostarine and Ligandrol in her sample.

The AIU said Nwokocha tested positive for Ostarine and Ligandrol in a sample collected on August 3, 2022.

A Nigerian sprinter specialising in a 100m race, Divine Oduduru, was banned for six years by AIU for anti-doping violations.

Divine Oduduru

The AIU said there was “overwhelming evidence” against the former world junior silver medallist. Oduduru, provisionally suspended on February 9, was linked to team-mate Blessing Okagbare, who was banned for 11 years for doping in 2022.

“We are very pleased with the outcome of this matter, given its particularly grievous nature, exposing the sinister collusion between athletes and other persons in deliberate plans to corrupt athletics at the highest level,” said Brett Clothier, head of the AIU.

Enyimba’s handwritten jersey embarrassment

Enyimba's handwriting jersey
Outrage trailed the disgraceful handwritten jersey number worn by Enyimba Football Club player Innocent Gabriel during their October African Football League clash against Wydad Athletic Club in Uyo.

The poorly printed jersey went viral and trended across social media platforms, with millions of football fans calling out Enyimba Football Club management for disgracing Nigerian football.

Super Falcons’ wage saga with NFF
Super Falcons

Some members of the Super Falcons team that represented Nigeria at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup held in Australia and New Zealand spoke about how the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) treated them poorly.

Before the start of the World Cup, the Super Falcons threatened to boycott the tournament over issues about unpaid salaries for staff as well as owed bonuses for players. Super Falcons coach Randy Waldrum also said NFF had not paid him for seven months.

According to a report by TheAthletic, each Super Falcons player was due $100 for every day spent in camp during the World Cup, $3,000 per win and $1,500 per draw, totalling almost $10,000 after the tournament.

Despite the wage issues, the Super Falcons put up an impressive performance and reached the round of sixteen before losing to England.

D’Tigers 2024 Olympics ouster

D'Tigers of Nigeria

The hopes of Nigeria’s men’s basketball team, D’Tigers, to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games were dashed.

The D’Tigers failed to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics after their second consecutive defeat 68-77 at the FIBA Pre-Olympic Qualifying.

Nigeria lost to Mali at the FIBA Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Lagos.

The loss proved costly for Nigeria as it meant that Nigeria’s men’s basketball team would not be appearing at next year’s Olympic Games scheduled in Paris, France, from July 26 to August 11.

High poins of Nigerian sports in 2023

Osimhen’s exploits

Victor Osimhen crowned 2023 CAF Men’s Player of the Year

The remarkable exploits of Nigeria international and newly crowned African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen in 2023 cannot go unnoticed.

In December, Osimhen beat Morocco’s full-back Achraf Hakimi and Egypt’s striker Mohammed Salah. He was named the 2023 CAF Men’s Player of the Year after his heroic performance for the Super Eagles and Napoli. That feat made him the first Nigerian winner of the men’s award since Kanu Nwankwo in 1999 after another prolific campaign.

The honour capped a remarkable year for the powerful frontman, who also fired Nigeria to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations with 10 goals to finish as the top scorer of the qualifiers.

The 24-year-old Napoli star was in impressive form for Parthenopeans last season, where he helped the team clinch the Serie A title for the first time in 33 years.

His performances also earned him a nomination for the Ballon d’Or, where he finished 8th, becoming the first Nigerian to make the top 10 of the Ballon d’Or voting.

Osimhen bagged an incredible 31 goals in 39 matches across all competitions for Napoli last season and has continued his fantastic scoring record this campaign, as he has already netted seven goals in 13 games.

He scored 31 goals in all competitions last season and was crowned the Italian Footballers’ Association Player of the Year.

The prolific striker for Napoli created a new benchmark for Africans in Italy when he surpassed George Weah to become the highest-scoring player from the continent in Serie A history and surpassed Samuel Eto’o to become the most African goal-scorer in a single Italian season.

Joshua stages comeback

Anthony Joshua stops Otto Wallin in round five
Anthony Joshua stops Otto Wallin in round five

Former two-time unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua continued his quest to return to the division’s top with a dominant performance and five-round victory over Swedish southpaw Otto Wallin; “All I want to be is victorious for as long as I can,” AJ declared afterwards.

After victories over Jermaine Franklin and Robert Helenius earlier this year, the Nigerian-born British boxer knew he needed to win the fight to keep alive his dream of challenging for another world title and end the year on a high note.

The win over Wallin means Joshua has won three fights in 2023.

Amusan cleared of doping allegations

Tobi Amsuan
Tobi Amsuan

In July 2023, women’s 100m hurdles world record holder Tobi Amusan was charged by the AIU for missing doping tests.

The 26-year-old had a successful outing in 2022 and became the first Nigerian world champion in an athletics event when she won the 2022 World Championships 100m hurdles gold medal, setting the current world record of 12.12secs in the semifinal, followed up by a 12.06secs in the final.

The double Commonwealth Games gold medallist denied taking performance-enhancing substances. “I am a clean athlete,” Amusan wrote on Instagram. “I am regularly (maybe more than the usual) tested by the AIU. I have faith that this will be resolved in my favour and that I will compete at the World Championships in August.”

In August, the AIU cleared Amusan, saying a panel of the disciplinary tribunal, by majority decision, found that she had not “committed an anti-doping rule violation of three whereabouts failures within a 12-month period”.

She expressed joy over the finding. “I’m thrilled to put this behind me and look forward to defending my title at next week’s World Championships,” she said on Instagram.

Amusan was set to miss the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest but was able to defend her world title where she finished sixth in the final.

Quadri retains African title
Aruna Quadri

At the 2023 International Table Tennis Federation in Tunis, Tunisia, African table tennis player Aruna Quadri demonstrated his supremacy by defeating Egyptian standout Ahmed Saleh in the men’s singles final.

After defeating his fiercest opponent, Omar Assar, last year, the Nigerian defeated the African No. 3 in four straight sets to secure his second consecutive title.

Oshoala emerges Africa’s best for sixth time
Asisat Oshoala

Super Falcons and Barcelona star Asisat Oshoala was again crowned the African Best Women’s Player of the Year Award for a record sixth time.

Oshoala, who plays club football for Barcelona, beat South Africa’s Thembi Klagtlana and Zambia’s Barbara Banda to the 2023 CAF Women’s Player of the Year award.

The 29-year-old Nigerian won in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2022. It is the first African to win this prestigious award a record five times, overtaking Perpetua Nkwocha, who claimed the accolade on four occasions.

Nnadozie’s CAF Goalkeeper Award
Osimhen, Oshoala, Nnadozie

This month, Super Falcons goal-stopper Chiamaka Nnadozie made history when she won CAF Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year for 2023.

The energetic Nnadozie beat fellow goalkeepers in the form of Moroccan shot-stopper Khadija El-Rmichi and South Africa’s Andile Olaminii.

The 23-year-old was crowned the Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year following her heroic outing at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, especially against Olympic champions Canada, where she made three saves, including stopping a 50th-minute penalty from Christine.

Her performances in the game secured a goalless draw for the Super Falcons and earned her the Player of the Match award.

Nnadozie rose to stardom after becoming the youngest-ever goalkeeper at age 19 to keep a clean sheet in Nigeria’s 2-0 victory over Korea at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.