Year 2018 in Sports: Nigerians’ joy, heartache, regrets

The year 2018 was quite a remarkable one for sports in Nigeria with landmark achievements recorded.

Although there were several high points in the course of the year, when compared to the potentials and resources channeled to sports, there may be less reasons for celebration.

From the Russia 2018 World Cup to the recently concluded National Sports Festival, PREMIUM TIMES looks at the key moments in Nigerian sports in 2018.

African Wrestling Championships

One the sports Nigeria has been growing in leaps and bounds in recent times is wrestling, all thanks to purposeful leadership being given by Olympic gold medallist, Daniel Igali.

Aside from the silverware won at different competitions, 2018 was quite remarkable as the 5th African Wrestling Championship was staged in Nigeria.

This is the biggest international wrestling event to be ever hosted in Nigeria and it was successfully staged in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

At the end of the five-day competition, Nigeria emerged the overall champions, coming first in four major categories of the championship which had 90 gold medals at stake.

Over 20 countries across Africa took part in the championship.

Winter Olympics

One of the highpoints of 2018 for Nigeria in sports was the debut appearance at a Winter Olympics.

The country participated at the 2018 edition in PyeongChang, South Korea from 9–25 February 2018.

The history-making Nigerian delegation consisted of four women: bobsledders Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga, and Ngozi Onwumere, and skeleton racer, Simidele Adeagbo.

The quartet made history as the first African women to compete in Bobsled and Skeleton events in a competition that is a rare feature on Nigeria’s sporting calendar.

Commonwealth Games

Nigeria competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia from April 4 to April 15, 2018.

With a 90-member contingent, Team Nigeria finished in the ninth position, winning 24 medals comprising of nine gold, nine silver, and six bronze medals which was a step below the 11 gold, 11 silver, and 14 bronze medals won at the 2014 Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

The para-athletes accounted for five of the top podium placements while wrestling had three and athletics one

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Russia 2018 World Cup

Having qualified in style not with permutations and calculators as it had usually been the case, many were hoping to see Nigeria have a spectacular outing at the Russia 2018 World Cup.

It turned out not to be so as the Super Eagles were booted out of the tournament at the group stage, losing to Croatia and Argentina from their group.

It wasn’t all gloomy all the same as the team however made some gains off the pitch particularly in jersey sales as the Nike designed outfit was the most sought after in the build-up to Russia 2018

Senior Africa Athletics Championships

For 29 years, Nigeria was snubbed from hosting this championship after it hosted the flagship event in Lagos in 1989.

Asaba, however, got the nod to host the 21st edition and it was fanfare in Delta State between August 1 to 5, 2018.

Kenya emerged victorious at the end of hostilities winning 19 medals made up of 11 gold, six silver and two bronze medals.

The East Africans, who hosted and won the 19th edition in 2014, beat defending champions, South Africa and host, Nigeria, to the second and third positions respectively.

U-20 Women’s World Cup

The age grade FIFA organised tourney for women took place in France from 5–24 August 2018 and was won by Japan.

The Christopher Danjuma-led team made it to the quarterfinals losing 2-1 to Spain.

However, there were reports claiming that players and official of the team were not paid their entitlements before and during the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup finals in France.

2018 African Women Cup of Nations

The Super Falcons extended their supremacy on the African continent by defeating South Africa on penalties to win the 2018 edition for the third consecutive time in Ghana.

With the victory, the Falcons had been to the finals nine times out of 11 editions and have not lost in the finals. They will represent Africa at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

19th National Sports Festival

Against all odds, the Festival, dubbed ‘Nigeria Olympics’ was staged in Abuja from December 6 -16, 2018 after a six-year hiatus. It was last staged in Lagos in 2012.

Delta State finished top of the table with an unprecedented 342 medals, relegating the likes of Rivers, Edo and Lagos State to the second, third and fourth position respectively.

Perhaps due to the hurried arrangements, the 19th National Sports Festival ranked among the worst organised ever.

Edo State has been given the hosting right for the next edition and expectations are that they would get it right.

Other Events

Away from events and championship, the year 2018 was also dotted with happenings that rocked the sporting world.

One of such was the shocking retirement of Victor Moses from international football just after the World Cup.

The reelection of Amaju Pinnick as NFF boss was also remarkable but whether it is a step in the right direction, time would tell.

Prior to the election, Nigeria was at the verge of being suspended by FIFA for what the football ruling body called undue interference.

It took a last minute letter from the Nigeria Government to avert the FIFA ban.

Also, the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) for the first time in history ended without teams playing all 38 games scheduled for the calendar year.

The League Management Committee (LMC) explained they had to produce a winner in order to present a representative on time to CAF for the Champions League and the Confederation Cup competitions.

That decision is still having rippling effects as the LMC and NNL are at loggerheads on how the next season will be. The former wants just four teams promoted to have a 24-club league next season.

While the gains of 2018 are worth celebrating, sports administrators need to be more deliberate in 2019 to achieve meaningful success.

The days when trial and error still gave result are fast evaporating and only those with proper planning and strategies make a headway.


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