The outgoing Year 2022 is a mixed bag for Nigeria; especially in sports where there was the good, bad and ugly.
Like other years, the sports fraternity welcomed 2022 with a great deal of optimism for an improved fortune for sports in Nigeria.
Though there were some gains and moments that gladdened the hearts of sports enthusiasts, 2022 served a fair deal of disappointments and heartbreaks for all.
As PREMIUM TIMES continues its review of the year 2022, here are seven of the disappointing moments in Nigerian sports.
Super Eagles cannot fulfill bilateral relations with Qatar
Without a doubt, Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup was the biggest disappointment of 2022.
Aside from missing out on the unquantifiable excitement of Africa’s best performance ever at the Mundial, the huge loss in revenue to Nigeria’s sports industry is massive.
The ‘Morocco effect’ affected all but the customary frenzy associated with World Cups was at its lowest ebb.
Brands that would normally splash the cash couldn’t do so because the team’s players and officials, as well as the NFF, had blown a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Just like the CHAN tournament, Ghana was again Nigeria’s nemesis as they beat the Eagles to the World Cup ticket via the away goals rule.
Nigeria could have made its seventh appearance in Qatar, but the country must now gather its acts quickly enough to stage a return to the 2026 Mundial, which will be co-hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
Super Eagles cannot soar in Cameroon
The Super Eagles’ Round of 16 exit at the most recent Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon was a tremendous disappointment, especially after the team had shown so much promise in the group stage.
For some, the signs of a disastrous outing were clear when the NFF fired the team’s coach, Gernot Rohr, weeks before the tournament began and drafted Augustine Eguavoen as an emergency replacement.
Eguavoen fooled us all by winning all three group games and fuelled speculation that the Super Eagles could make it all the way to the final, where the prospect of an all-time grudge match against hosts Cameroon piqued many people’s interest.
However, a 1-0 loss for the 10-man Eagles team against a Tunisia team that barely scrapped through the group stage marked the Eagles’ first failure to reach the AFCON last eight since 1984.
Super Falcons clipped in Morocco
The Nigeria national women’s football team’s influence in Africa has dwindled over the years, and it was completely eclipsed at the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco.
In the past, the Falcons easily defeated any opposition they faced on the continent, which explains why they have an incredible haul of titles to their name.
However, right from the start of the qualification series for the 2022 WAFCON, the Falcons had to work hard and dig deep to beat West African rivals Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
Though the Falcons achieved the target of qualifying for the World Cup in Morocco, the outing in North Africa was their worst. Three losses at the African championships, two of those consecutively, are the worst for any Super Falcons team.
Failure to win a medal in Morocco after being defeated by Zambia in the third-place match is tied for the Falcons’ worst record at the tournament.
Randy Waldrum, who oversaw the nosedive, is still in charge and looks set to lead the Falcons to next year’s World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, where many expect the girls to be super once more.
Usman, Adesanya, and Joshua kiss the canvas
When the trio of Israel Adesanya, Kamaru Usman, and Anthony Joshua get in the ring for their fights, Nigeria often makes the headline
Though the trio have adopted other countries, they overtly identify with Nigeria and their fan base in the country is quite impressive.
However, if there is a year this trio will want to erase from their career, it would most likely be 2022 going by the enormous setbacks and humbling defeats they suffered.
Adesanya in November lost his UFC Middleweight title after Brazilian Alex Pereira defeated him via a fifth-round TKO at UFC 281.
That was the first time Adesanya suffered defeat in the middleweight category, and the first time he was knocked out or pinned for submission in his MMA career.
Though pained by the defeat, Adesanya is confident of bouncing back.
The Nigerian Nightmare, as we often refer Kamaru Usman to, was also served ‘breakfast’ in 2022, losing his welterweight title to Briton Leon Edwards at the UFC 278.
It was the first time someone knocked Usman out in his career and it was brutally done by Edwards. Just like the Style Bender, Usman is also hopeful of bouncing back pretty soon.
However, the optimistic duo will have to learn from Anthony Joshua, who lost his title to the Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk in September 2021 and hoped to regain them in a rematch in 2022.
Though we widely agreed Joshua gave a better performance in his Usyk rematch, it wasn’t enough for the Nigerian-born boxer to regain his titles.
Okagbare collects record doping ban
We feared the worst when the suspension of Blessing Okagbare was announced on the eve of the Women’s 100m semi-final race at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Okagbare, who arguably is Nigeria’s most-decorated athlete and holds the country’s 100m and 200m women’s records, tested positive for multiple prohibited substances.
For seven months, there was an agonising wait for the verdict by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).
And when it came seven months after in February 2022, it was a rude shock for many. No one saw a 10-year ban coming for a first-time offender.
They banned Okagbare for five years for the presence and use of multiple prohibited substances and five years for her refusal to cooperate with the AIU’s investigation into her case.
With an additional year added much later after fresh discoveries, it marked an inglorious end to an illustrious career of the poster girl of Nigeria and, indeed, African athletics.
Another miss CHAN tournament
When many argue for including more home-based players in the Super Eagles, one weapon the critics use is the inability of the same set of players to qualify for the African Nations Championship (CHAN).
CHAN is the AFCON version solely for home-based players, but Nigeria has only made three appearances in the seven editions since 2009.
For the first two editions, Nigeria was missing in action before the late Stephen Keshi made it in 2014 and led the country to win bronze.
In 2022, Nigeria failed to qualify and will miss back-to-back editions again, having failed to make it to the 2020 edition in Cameroon and the latest billed for Algeria.
Arch rivals Ghana stopped Nigeria on penalties from qualifying in their latest attempt.
D’Tigress unjustly denied World Cup participation
Watching D’Tigress qualify for the World Cup that was staged in Australia was a beauty to behold. The defining moment has to be the victory over the then number five team in the world, France.
With preparations well below par, D’Tigress showed they had come of age.
Then the unthinkable happened, the Federal Government, through the Sports Ministry, announced it had imposed a two-year self-ban from international basketball.
Though framed as a difficult but imperative move to save the country from an impending embarrassment, it was largely seen as a selfish and egoistic trip that ended up costing the hard-working D’Tigress their place at the World Cup.
FIBA replaced Nigeria with Mali on the World Cup roster and the rest, as they say, is history.
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