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Internal squabble sinking Nigeria’s basketball

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Nigeria’s D’Tigers just returned from Tunisia where they fell flat losing all three games at the first qualifying window of the 2025 Afrobasket. They lost their opening game to Libya after getting into Over Time and then to Uganda and Cape Verde.

This set of Tigers was hurriedly assembled after the Nigeria Basketball Federation got the approval from the Ministry of Sports Development to source for funds and travel. The federation had announced withdrawal from the competition – an announcement that shocked the basketball world. It was tough to imagine that the same Nigeria that defeated the USA just before the Tokyo Olympics would sink to the low of not being able to attend a qualifying event and worse still lose three straight games.

The outing in Tunisia last week can be seen like a continuation of what happened with D’Tigers last August in Lagos. Nigeria was host to the Olympic qualifier. It was a very bold and glamorous event held in the luxury build of Eko Hotel. The entire Expo Centre was converted to a single hall with everything needed for a world basketball event. One of the coaches was so moved by the sights and scenes that he took time to praise the organization before answering the question on his team.

“This is the first time I have played basketball matches under the Chandelier. Everything about this competition is fantastic.”

It was a lovely sight but Nigeria could not present a determined side and lost out badly. But just a few years ago D’Tigers became the first team in the whole world to qualify for the FIBA World Cup. Nigeria qualified five games left to play in the qualifiers. This was one of the reasons the Tigers became very attractive to the world. Nigerians in the NBA loved the NBBF management style such that a few Americans quickly traced their lineage to Nigeria just to play for the country at the Tokyo Olympics. At this stage there was internal peace even though there were external aggressors against the NBBF. And the federation had some funds that helped them chase noble goals.

Today, the setting is painfully changing and it has become very obvious that internal fights hurt goals more than external oppositions. The NBBF led by Engr Musa Ahmadu Kida is facing quite some battles indoors and these battles have not helped the board and the players.

The 1996/97 fight

The trouble in the NBBF did not start today. What is new is the shape of the fight and those involved. In the 1996/1997 era, a young army officer then Major Sam Ahmedu challenged Alhaji U.K Umar (then a high ranking Nigeria Immigration officer) for the presidency. Ahmedu was fully backed by his friend Musa Kida and some others while the likes of Jacob Gwang Buba (the current Gbong Gwon Jos) and Tijanni Umar the former NBBF President stood by the immigration officer. The disagreement did not end with the election as it continued thereafter until Umar finished his tenure and handed over to Buba. It was only the eight years of Buba’s tenure that NBBF enjoyed some peace. Buba moved up to become the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs and tactically deployed his status, wisdom to keep things calm.

When he left TJ Umar took over in a way that made the Ahmedu group feel that the sports ministry did not give others the chance to contest. Four years after, there was another quarrel over the elections and the Ahmedu/Kida team walked out. Ahmedu ended up in court to “enforce his fundamental rights” as he said he was denied his place.

Courts cases and others

When Kida became the NBBF president the TJ Umar group went to court over the ownership of the Premier League. Former D’Tigers captain Olumide Oyedeji was with Umar until he crossed over to the Kida side just as the last election was about to hold. The Umar group was disappointed and made serious efforts to get Olumide back on the day of the election. The near seven footer received calls for nearly two hours in Benin City under pressure to withdraw. While the Umar side feels betrayed, it does not appear that Oyedeji’s loyalty to his new friends has been fully accepted.

But then after the elections in Benin, the NBBF set out to work. The election was well conducted by Dr Lanre Glover, a long time president of the Nigeria Handball Federation. Everyone assumed the professional way the election was conducted would give a fresh breath of life to the NBBF. Internally, they got fresh breath but the sports ministry under Sunday Dare was still playing a hide-and-seek game with the federation. The ministry was reluctant to fully accept the board as its officials covertly supported another group that held a Kangaroo type of election at the Abuja stadium. Only a few insiders could figure out the deep interest of the supervising ministry in the NBBF affairs.

The height of it was the minister’s decision to withdraw the women’s national team, D’Tigress from the FIBA World Cup with just weeks to the event. The ministry announced it wanted to “reorganize Nigeria basketball from the grassroots” and produce home-bred champions. It was a ludicrous decision that left the world laughing at Nigeria. This action is certainly the biggest setback Nigeria basketball has suffered since 1960.

Before this time, politically motivated players had done a video revolting against the NBBF and of which their reasons were pecuniary. Eventually the back-to-back African champions were disbanded.

This NBBF was still very united and fought back until they got the full recognition they deserved and needed but before this official recognition came; a lot of damage had been done as the committee created by the ministry had moved around. They had gone to corporate bodies for sponsorship just like the NBBF – a situation that made organizations to wonder who to deal with.

D’Tigress have rebounded to the top but their rebuilding showed great cracks in the NBBF. The body was divided on how to relate with the players and at the end a decision was taken to start afresh with an open camp to all Nigerian players. Another strong point was getting them a new coach. A very young Nigerian-American Rena Wakama was recruited to run the team. It was from within the NBBF that the public heard that Rena was too “inexperienced and not exposed enough” to handle a team like the Tigress. The young lady was reading all that on the net as she confirmed in an interview just before the team’s first outing. The negative reports would later spur the coach and her young players to winning the African cup in Rwanda and the Olympic ticket in Belgium. The negatives from Nigeria were so much that the largely new players confirmed that people called Nigeria Team C when they arrived in Rwanda.

Recruiting coaches and ambitions

The coach issue was not limited to D’Tigress but it caused problems in the men’s side too. After Nigeria played at the World Cup in China and qualified for the Olympics with Alex Nwora as the coach, it was learnt that talks began about getting an NBA coach for the men. It was understood that the NBA players in a way suggested that. The Federation therefore got Mike Brown to serve as the head coach with Alex Nwora as his assistant.

Sam Ahmedu spoke openly against this decision as the crack began to widen. This disagreement has continued to show in other areas too. Ahmedu who has used every public medium to state his disagreement in some of the decisions insists that Kida is running the board almost “like a sole administrator.” He insists they are briefed on major matters rather than everyone putting heads together first. He says the federation is run by just about five members taking the decisions.

But another member in a discussion last December said it was not true.

“The problem is that Col Sam (Ahmedu) wants to be in charge all the time. If he recruits we accept it, hoping its good judgment but anyone who does not come through him would be condemned. That’s just the problem.”

The former D’Tigress coach Otis Hugley, we understand, was introduced to the board by Ahmedu when Sam Vincent’s deal was terminated and he was accepted. For the men, a united NBBF wanted Ime Udoka first but Ime was just starting his NBA managerial career and said he could not afford to shuttle both continents at the time and so a long time friend of Ahmedu, Alex Nwora was brought in. Nwora in his own right had coached Cape Verde in an Afrobasket competition in Angola and they defeated Nigeria. His only “disadvantage” was that he’s a high school coach and the NBBF was not comfortable with that status going to the Olympics with a full squad of NBA players and therefore sought Mike Brown – a decision that forced Nwora out and raised further murmurings within.

Men’s Premier League

The biggest minus for this board and their infighting is that the Men’s Premier League has failed to play in full season for years. Getting a full sponsor for the league has remained a huge task with all the distractions that come from the federation. It has been nearly a deal but none has worked. The NBBF has done well with the men’s divisions one and two with full sponsorship but the flagship competition is suffering.

The atmosphere has not helped the national teams, especially the men. All manner of gist and rumours have forced some American-based players to stay away unlike the pre-Tokyo Olympics period when everyone wanted to play for Nigeria.

The Peace Move

Nigerians are indeed worried but there appears to be a faint hope from afar that someday some peace would come. A former director in the Ministry of Sports Alhaji Abba Yola is one of those picked by concerned citizens to help bring the NBBF Board back to a united front. Incidentally, the major actors in the NBBF imbroglio have been close friends for nearly 40 forty years.

“Such meeting can’t be a Zoom or online talk; we need to sit down together and let them talk like adults. We’ve been discussing individually but this is a very busy year from the Africa Games to the Olympics but somehow we will find a way. These men need to put the players and Nigeria first and once we can achieve that every other thing will fall in place.”

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Highlights from UFC 300: Alex Pereira, Max Holloway seal KO wins

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Highlights from UFC 300: Alex Pereira, Max Holloway seal KO wins

UFC 300 featured one of the greatest knockouts on Saturday, as Max Holloway faceplanted Justin Gaethje in the final second of their ‘BMF’ title fight.

Holloway outclassed Gaethje for five rounds before capping off a stunning performance with a mesmerising KO, which left Gaethje out cold, face-first on the canvas.

With that, Hawaiian Holloway took the ‘Baddest Motherf***er’ belt from the American, while the other title fights at UFC 300 saw the champions retain.

In the main event, Alex Pereira knocked out Jamahal Hill in round one to remain champion at 205lbs.

Hill stands southpaw; Pereira is orthodox. The champion kicks low twice, and Hill responds with one of his own.

Hill tries a cross, but Pereira is out of range. Good lead right hook by Hill. A slower spell ensues, and the crowd gets a bit restless.

Pereira evades a head kick then jabs to the body of Hill. The Brazilian is pressing forward. Hill lands a kick right on Pereira’s cup, and referee Herb Dean steps in to halt the action, but Pereira waves him away.

Seconds later, Pereira sends Hill RIGID with a signature left hook!!! Hill falls back onto the canvas, his eyes rolling back in his head, and Pereira brutalises the challenger with hammer fists, forcing the stoppage!

Holloway outclassed Gaethje for five rounds before capping off a stunning performance with a mesmerising KO, which left Gaethje out cold, face-first on the canvas.

With that, Hawaiian Holloway took the ‘Baddest Motherf***er’ belt from the American, while the other title fights at UFC 300 saw the champions retain.

Zhang Weili retains strawweight belt in back-and-forth bout with Yan Xiaonan; Arman Tsarukyan edges past Charles Oliveira in close clash; Jiri Prochazka fights back to TKO Aleksandar Rakic; debuting Kayla Harrison dominates Holly Holm for submission win and Renato Moicano stops Jalin Turner with ground and pound to maintain momentum.

 

 

 

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Men charged with murder of Kaizer Chiefs’ Luke Fleurs remanded

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Men charged with murder of Kaizer Chiefs’ Luke Fleurs remanded

Six suspects arrested over the murder of Kaizer Chiefs player Luke Fleurs have been remanded by the Roodepoort magistrate’s court on Friday.

Ndumiso Moswane, 26; Fernando Siva, 25; Nhlakanipho Dlamini, 21; Franky Xaba, 25; Maredi Mphahlele, 36; and Thembinkosi Hlomikhawu, 31, have been charged with murder, possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition, robbery with aggravating circumstances and defeating the ends of justice.

The suspects are expected to apply for bail during their court appearance next Friday.

All six suspects have opted to apply for the services of Legal Aid lawyers.

State prosecutor Arnold Limekhaya said the state intends to oppose the bail applications.

“We will oppose bail,” he told the court, indicating the state was yet to get the profiles of the men and their bail statements.

The 24-year-old Kaizer Chiefs defender and South Africa under-23 international was hijacked and fatally shot in the chest at a petrol station in Honeydew last Wednesday.

It is understood that the assailants drove off in Fleurs’ vehicle.

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Lagos FA to debut Nigerian Ex-International cup

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Lagos FA To Debut Nigerian Ex-International Cup

The Lagos State Football Association (LSFA) has concluded arrangements to organize a tournament involving Nigerian ex-internationals and their clubs’ teammates back in the day.
The Lagos State Football Association Chairman, Hajj Gafar Olawale Liameed, disclosed that the ex-internationals coming together to play football will inspire lots of youths.

“We believe in our ex-players. LSFA is determined to carry along ex-internationals and drive the game forward at every level,” Hajj Gafar stated.

“The tournament will see former Nigeria internationals based in Lagos adopt teams. For instance, if an ex-international is based in the area of Dino SC he can adopt them.

“The competition tagged ‘The Nigerian Ex Internationals Cup’ would see teams play on a home and away basis in the first phase before we proceed to the knockout stage.

“We want to have a clear identity and organize lots of programs. This is one of our innovations and we hope to take blessings from the Lagos State Government and Nigeria Football Federation,” the football technocrat enthused.

Hajj Gafar also reiterated LSFA’s commitments to the proper development of football in the centre of excellence.

“We’re determined to lead that development at every level and have created a robust plan for doing so using all our resources and knowledge.”

Meanwhile, former Nigeria internationals like Joseph Yobo, Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Wasiu Ipaye have already thrown their weight behind the innovation by the LSFA.

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