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D’Tigress: Africa’s worthy champions

The country’s women basketball team, D’Tigress, have emerged the champions of basketball in Africa after defeating their fierce rival, Senegal, in the final of the Afrobasket Championship held in Bamako, Mali, on Sunday. D’Tigress beat the Senegalese team by 65 to 48 points. En route the final, the victorious women team beat Mozambique, Egypt and Senegal in the group stages, before upturning formidable host, Mali, in the semi-finals by a narrow margin, 48 to 47. Our all-conquering team had the rare privilege of beating its eternal rival, Senegal, twice in the competition, as it had conquered the Senegalese team in the earlier stages of the competition.

We salute our brave women for this significant achievement. They have given credence to our belief that Nigeria should, as a matter of course, be the leader in Africa and the entire black race. We have no business playing second fiddle to any country on the continent, at least, and even on the world stage, we should be formidable competitors. By their feat at this year’s event in Bamako, D’Tigress along with the Senegalese team have qualified to represent Africa at the World Basketball Championship in Spain shortly. We urge them  to put up a credible performance on the world stage so that they can prove to the world that we have come of age and are ready to be world beaters.

But, this goal is not easily attained. To make the desired mark on the world stage, our gallant women basketball team has to be very well prepared and motivated. We are happy that their achievement in Bamako received immediate attention at home with President Muhammadu Buhari congratulating and receiving the victorious team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday before the commencement of the Executive Council meeting. The President did well by announcing a cash reward of N1 million each for the players and N500,000 each for their handlers. The kind gesture cannot be lost on the team.

Whereas, we can argue that the monetary reward may not be enough considering the team’s outstanding achievement, the speed and spirit of conviviality with which it was given is welcome. It shows that the country’s leadership is beginning to understand the import of other sports, apart from football. What is left now is to urge the authorities, especially those saddled with the responsibility of preparing the team for the world championship in Spain, to do the needful and ensure that the Nigerian team has a credible and successful outing there.

Basketball is one sport that has continued to benefit from the template that has served the country very well over the years. We refer to the system of mentorship which affords our athletes scholarships in American universities and collegiate system so that they can train under the best global conditions and return to help prosecute and develop the sports at home. Unfortunately, in the process, we have lost some of our best sportsmen to the enabling countries abroad, but there is no doubt that it still serves us.

While we recommend a revival of this template in other sports, we are gratified to note that three homegrown talents were part of the victorious D’Tigress team to this year’s championship in Bamako. This is very encouraging of the local basketball league and speaks volumes of the talent at home. It is this kind of positive collaboration between the homegrown and foreign talents that can guarantee the nation the best results possible.

We congratulate the leadership and management team of the basketball federation and recommend that they continue on this profitable path. There is something that the federation is doing well with regards to the game of basketball. Even now, the nation’s men basketball team are African champions and are preparing to defend their crown soon. That is why we were alarmed when factionalisation crept into the body recently. But, we are happy to note that that dangerous development is being resolved, while unity and collaboration are about to be restored. This is good for the immediate and future development of the sport.

The superlative performance of D’Tigress at Bamako would certainly improve the ranking of the nation on the continent and the world stage. This is a gain we must seek to build on at the forthcoming world championship in Spain. We wish our gallant women basketball team a most successful outing at this event.       

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