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Sporty 2022, little to cheer for Nigeria



THIS year began high for millions of Nigerians. Nigeria had many events on its sports calendar that most people anticipated. For a sports-loving nation like Nigeria, sport is one such activity that unites the country more than any doing, such that in common parlance it’s called a ‘unifier.’

Among the events eagerly awaited by millions of sports-loving Nigerians is the World Cup scheduled for Qatar as host.

The year began with Nigeria’s participation in the 13 January – 4 February 2022, 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. The biennial international men’s football championship of Africa organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and hosted by Cameroun was Nigeria’s first major sports participation.

Football-loving Nigerians had an overly ambitious expected stellar performance from the senior men’s national football team, Super Eagles, though the team had a poor run of results, lousy preparation, and administrative blunders ahead of the tournament.

The Super Eagles, filed out against the seven times champions, the Pharaohs of Egypt in their first match and won by a lone goal. Nigeria recorded a 100% performance in the group stage but got knocked out 1-0 by Tunisia in the last round of 16.

The African Cup of Nations took off the shine of the 2022 Women’s Hockey Africa Cup of Nations. The quadrennial championship organised by the African Hockey Federation was held alongside the men’s tournament at the Theodosia Okoh Hockey Stadium in Accra, Ghana from 17 to 23 January 2022. Nigeria’s participation at the event was a mixed fortune. Nigeria’s men’s team took the bronze medal, while their female counterparts crashed out in the quarter-finals. South Africa claimed both the women’s and men’s titles at the tournament.

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Nigeria competed at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, from 4 to 20 February 2022 but in only one sport – Cross-country skiing and without winning any medals. 

At the 25th edition of the African Men’s Handball Championship, held from 11 to 18 July, 2022, in Egyptthat acted as the African qualifying tournament for the 2023 World Men’s Handball Championship in Poland and Sweden, the Golden Arrows as the senior national team of Nigeria is called participated in the tournament. 13 African nations took part in the championship held in Egypt. The host nation Egypt won the championship eight times.

At the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup hosted by Costa Rica in August, the Falconets represented Nigeria. The Nigerian flag bearer began their opening match with a 1-0 victory over their French counterpart but bowed out of the tournament in the quarter-final after a 2-0 loss to The Netherlands. The Falconets failed to reenact earlier round performances, which saw them winning all three group phase matches.

Nigeria’s female national football team, the Super Falcon entered the biennial international football championship, 2022 Africa Women Cup of Nations as favourite to win the championship. Nigeria is the most successful nation in the tournament’s history, having won a record 11 titles, meaning they have won all but two of the previous tournaments.

Nigeria lost their first group-stage match to arch-rival, South Africa by 2-1. Nigeria crashed out in the Semi-final losing to Morocco 4-5 on penalties following a 1-1 draw. The Moroccans eventually lost to the South Africans in the finals by 2-1.

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As was expected, Nigeria produced a moderate performance at the 2022 Commonwealth Games (CWG), officially known as the XXII Commonwealth Games and commonly known as Birmingham 2022.

The international multi-sport event is for members of the Commonwealth held in Birmingham, England, between 28 July and 8 August 2022. The Games was the largest ever held, with 72 participating nations participating.  It was also the first to have more events for women than men and the first integrated event, with the para competition held at the same time.

It also marked the last time that the Games were held under Queen Elizabeth II who died on 8 September, 2022, one month after the conclusion of the Games.

Nigeria finished the competition with 35 medals —12 gold, nine silver, and 14 bronze medals to finish the 7th on the table.  Nigerian athletes broke several records in the competition. Athletics provided the most medals for Nigeria with 10 podium finishes, followed by wrestling with seven. The 12 gold medals were Nigeria’s highest haul in the history of the Games.

All the gold medals were won by female athletes. Tobi Amusan surged to the finish line in 12.30 seconds in the final of the women’s 100-meter hurdles to set a CWG record. Ese Brume registered a record-setting 7-metre leap in the long jump, among others.

A World Cup without Nigeria’s participation. In March, the men’s senior football team, Super Eagles disappointed football-loving Nigerians as they failed to qualify to represent the country at the biggest football showpiece in the world scheduled for Qatar.

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Nigeria failed to qualify for a seventh World Cup after it played a 1: 1 draw with West African archrival Ghana in Abuja. The Black Stars of Ghana had the previous week held the Super Eagles to a goalless draw in Kumasi, as their away goal in Abuja meant they advanced to Qatar.

The Super Eagles’ failure was the second time to miss the soccer fiesta since their first appearance in the FIFA World Cup hosted by the USA in 1994, the first time was for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany which was won by Italy.

Super Eagle’s non-participation means that the country lost the opportunity to showcase Nigeria’s culture there with many business opportunities lost too. The Super Eagles’ absence has led to a drop in FIFA rankings and that could affect the Super Eagles in future games as they might get difficult games. Nigeria is also missing out on the money countries at the World Cup will get.

The Commonwealth Games proved to be Nigeria’s finest sporting moment in 2022.

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