Nigeria: Tireless d'Tigers, d'Tigress Soldier On Amid NBBF Crisis

14 September 2019

From football, to athletics and basketball, most sports federation in Nigeria have been bedevilled by leadership crises which have negatively impacted on the national teams under their watches.

As it is said, when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. Consequently, athletes who should be given the enabling environment to thrive are usually victims of such leadership squabbles.

Although Nigerian sports stakeholders are getting used to the perennial crisis in the Nigerian Football Federation, the ongoing leadership tussle in the Nigeria Basketball Federation is already a pain in the neck of many.

Even as the fireworks which heralded the present crisis in the leadership of NBBF appear to have died down, the power tussle between the two gladiators, Engineer Musa Kida and Tijanni Yusuf is far from over.

Both men emerged as presidents from two separate elections held back in 2017. Kida emerged as president of the NBBF in the general elections into all sports federations organized by the Ministry of Sports.

Umar also emerged president for a third term from an election held based on the reversed constitution of the NBBF in Kano, a day prior to the general election held in Abuja. However, it was not recognised by the then Minister of Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung.

With both men laying claim to the NBBF 'throne', and with no solution in sight, FIBA's Secretary General, Patrick Bauman noted that both elections failed to meet the general statutes of the global body.

FIBA in the letter said a new election date will be announced which till the time of writing this piece, no election has been held. But still in the letter, FIBA revealed that they will be dealing with the Kida-led board.

Expectedly, this position from FIBA did not go down well with his opponent, Umar who accused the global body of being responsible for the leadership crisis.

However, despite the distractions coming off the field, the two senior national basketball teams, D'Tigers and D'Tigress have continued to show strength and character to dominate Africa and also vie to be among the best in the world.

It is indeed surprising that the recent achievements recorded by the two national teams have surpassed the records under previous regimes when the federation was not factionalized.

Recently, the D'Tigress successfully defended their FIBA Africa Women Nations Cup title in Senegal, beating the hosts Senegal 60-55 to win back-to-back continental titles.

In the process, they became the first team to win back-to-back FIBA Women's AfroBasket titles since Angola followed up their 2011 triumph with another in 2013.

They successfully defended the title they won at the beginning of the crisis in the leadership of the NBBF in 2017.

Interestingly, the female side who were growing in leaps and bounds had a year ago stunned some of the biggest teams in the world to get to the quarterfinals of the FIBA Women World Cup in Spain.

The feat announced D'Tigress to the world being the first African nation to get to that stage.

As expected, the crisis in the administration of the game is taking a toll on D'Tigers and D'Tigress so the NBBF of Kida which has taken charge of the national teams had to borrow money from different sources to ensure the women's team travelled to Senegal for the 2019 AfroBasket.

And just this week, in far away China, the D'Tigers capped a scintillating performance at the FIBA Men's World Cup with qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

D'Tigers are indeed the first African team to qualify for the basketball event of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Although confronted by paucity of funds, players of both national teams are constantly motivating themselves for enhanced performances.

Instead of embarking on protests over bonuses and allowances as is common with other national teams like the Super Eagles, players of D'Tigers and D'Tigress have continued to make sacrifices to lift Nigerian basketball.

Thus, when they qualified for the Olympics, some of the star players in D'Tigers didn't hide their joy as they poured out their hearts in appreciation of the reward for their selflessness.

Relishing the chance to return to the Olympics, Orlando Magic forward, Al-Farouq Aminu described the match against China as "a character builder for our team. We didn't accomplish everything we wanted to in China but we set a new goal to make the Olympics and we did so.

"I remember when I joined the team in 2012, we vowed not to miss an Olympics. It's a beautiful feeling (to qualify). It's amazing."

Aminu said he is looking forward to more games with the current squad, adding that he is proud of the state of Nigeria's team.

Veteran captain, Ike Diogu describes Nigerian basketball as an emerging force. "We feel right now is the golden age for Nigerian basketball and we have a lot of exciting up and coming players," he said.

"We just want to keep on building and have a good showing in Japan. It feels really good knowing that we are going back to the Olympics."

Coach Alexander Nwora is looking beyond China to a better outing at the Olympics next year.

Speaking after the match against China, Nwora said, "W have a lot of talent and we showed resiliency.

"We weren't going to settle with leaving China with a loss. We're going to make the necessary preparations now so that we can be very, very good at the Olympics."

Tokyo 2020 will be Nigeria's third consecutive Olympics appearance after they made their debut at the London 2012 Olympics before returning to the big stage at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as the reigning African champions and finishing 11th.

Their celebrations at the end of the game against China were not just about winning for pride but also that they will not have to go through the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next year, taking the direct route to Tokyo 2020.

It will be recalled that prior to the World Cup, Nigeria was at the risk of becoming the first country ever to qualify for the World Cup without attending.

The team had to wait for Kida, to return from Senegal, where he went to cheer the D'Tigress to their fourth African title, before they could leave for China.

Although D'Tigers are home and dry, the female national team, D'Tigress have the African Qualifiers for the pre-qualifying Tournament of the 2020 Olympics to contend with.

It is also an open secret that D'Tigress will slug it out with Mozambique and Congo DR in Group A of the pre-qualifiers.

FIBA had announced that the qualifiers would take place from November 14-17 at a country yet to be determined.

With the crisis in the NBBF yet to be resolved, it is only hoped that the uncommon patriotism which is driving the players forward will not varnish into thin air.

Therefore, expectations are really high that D'Tigress will also survive the qualifiers to land in Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

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