Posted by Amechi Obiakpu | 6 December 2017 | 2,553 times
Contrary to some views that the Super Eagles are disadvantaged haven been drawn alongside Argentina, Iceland and Croatia ahead of next year’s World Cup in Russia, veteran sports journalist and broadcaster, Taye Ige, has said that the draw is a blessing to the country.
Ige, who is the Chairman/CEO of Hotsports Network and HS Media Group, said one must remark that God Almighty answered the prayers of Nigerians. “In my view, we had the luck of the draw,” he said.
Mr. Ige was speaking at the maiden edition of the Nigerian Awards for Sporting Excellence (NASE), held last Saturday in Ikeja, Lagos, few hours after the announcement of the World Cup draws.
The awards, the country’s biggest, is aimed at rewarding sporting excellence among Nigerian athletes and sports personalities who are flying the country’s flag within the country and around the world.
“We have every reason to celebrate our World Cup grouping. Argentina cannot stop us. We beat them recently in Russia and, by the dint of dedication, focus, determination and the special grace of God, we will beat them again during the FIFA World Cup finals in Russia.
“Croatia, even by UEFA ratings, are a category ‘B’ team in Europe while debutantes Iceland are already content rubbing shoulders with the big boys. We will have more reason to celebrate as I foresee the Super Eagles going far at 2018 FIFA World Cup,” Ige said.
He, however, added a caveat: “To go far and be considered as having had a successful campaign, Nigeria should at least make it to the semifinals. Is this possible? Yes, I do believe so. Without advocating complacency, all that needs to be done right now is for every stakeholder to continue to do their bit as diligently as they have done so far.”
Recounting the sorry state the country’s sports had degenerated before the succour that is graduating returning to football as a result of Eagles qualification to the global soccer mundial, Ige posited: “To say that the story of sports in our country is one of underachievement at best is to say the obvious.
“In virtually all areas, we are confronted with tales of what is clearly possible and achievable but which painfully are not. And we are traumatised, especially when we see how easily these things are accomplished in other climes.
“In the Olympics, for instance, when last did Nigeria have a creditable outing after the 1996 Atlanta Games where we won two Gold, one Silver and three Bronze medals? I can just remind us that while we returned with a lone bronze medal in the last Games in Rio, Brazil, Great Britain, which placed four positions below Nigeria at the Atlanta Games in which it won only one Gold, eight Silver and six Bronze medals came second on the overall medals table in Rio with a haul of 27 Gold medals!
“Let’s turn to football. From winning Gold in a number of under-aged continental and global tournaments and placing fifth on the FIFA World Ranking of senior national teams shortly before the USA ’94 World Cup, our dear country has only managed to wobble and fumble from one tale of underachievement unto another since then. It got so bad that qualifying for the Africa Nations Cup (AFCON), which used to be our “birthright”, is no longer guaranteed. Again, one can just remind us that after winning the Tournament in 2013, we could not even qualify to defend the title in 2015 and also missed the 2017 edition! Unbelievable! One only hopes we will make it to Cameroon 2019.”
Ige is of the opinion that Nigeria will do better in the 2018 World Cup even as he observed that, this was the very first time the Eagles are heading to the World Cup with stability all around the team: the technical crew; the Federation; the players. “All this should combine to give us an unforgettable World Cup,” Ige added.
Also speaking at the event, Chairman of the Award Committee, Prince Isidore Oduah, noted the rationale behind (NASE): “Our view of the sporting community is a broad one. While the sportsmen and women themselves are at the centre of it all, it is our belief that the awards would be incomplete if we do not also recognise and honour the technical men and women, and administrators who make it possible for the athletes to do their stuff. We also believe it would be unfair not to reward the corporate bodies and other stakeholders who provide the much-needed financial and political support for sports to thrive.”
Some of the awardees were Among those honoured during the night were tennis sensation, Aruna Quadri, mesmerizing winger, Victor Moses, veteran lethal striker Obafemi Martins, charismatic goal keeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa and goal queen Asisat Oshoala.
Others were Senate Minority Leader, Chief (Dr.) Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio; Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State; and the President/Sole Sponsor of Go-Round Football Club of Omoku, Rivers State, Bro. Felix Obuah.
The rest were the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) President, Engr. Musa Kida; FCT Sports Director, Chief (Mrs.) Dili Onyedinma; SCOA Plc Chairman, Chief Barr. Henry Agbamu; Nigeria Football Supporters Club National Chairman, Prince Vincent Okumagba; and BJ Foundation FC Chairman, Coach Douglas Idahosa.
Three teams were also honoured, namely, the male and female national basketball teams, D’Tigers and D’Tigress, as well as Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) reigning champions, Plateau United.
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