Nigeria’s Women Basketball Team, D’Tigress, surpassed all expectations at the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup which held in Tenerife, Spain from September 22 – 30. The reigning African champions who represented the continent along with Senegal finished 8th at the end of the tournament, which saw the USA team winning it for the third time in a row.

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It was a glorious outing for the ladies as they made our country and indeed the entire continent proud. Prior to the competition, Nigeria was ranked 34th, but the girls never doubted their ability to compete on the global stage and conquer the world.

Otis Hughley who replaced Sam Vincent as the D’Tigress coach barely one month to the competition was keenly aware of this unusual team spirit and camaraderie amongst the girls and mentioned it as the team’s greatest asset in the competition. And true to prediction, the girls did not disappoint.

It was the first time an African team was going beyond the group stage, and indeed putting up superlative performances throughout the competition. To underscore the achievements of these glorious ladies, they beat the World Champions, USA in the first quarter of their Quarterfinal match by 17-9 points. The world, and not only Nigeria, held its breath! This audacity, as the Americans confessed later, rattled them and forced them to finally win the match. The Nigerian ladies indeed stood toe-to-toe with their US rivals until the last quarter when they probably tired out and lost by 20 points (25-5). In the end, America dominated the contest by 71-40 points.

Prior to the end of the competition, many commentators had referred to our group which had Australia (ranked 4th), Turkey and Argentina as the group of death. The D’Tigress, however, held their own and won three straight matches after losing the first to Australia by 86-68. They beat Turkey 74-68 and Argentina in a very keenly contested match 75-70 to qualify for the Quarterfinal play off.

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Against all expectations, the D’Tigress beat Greece by 57-56 to advance to the Quarter finals. It was a great feat indeed and the entire continent was on its feet for them. But the girls were not done, as they went up against the Americans and put up a credible performance, even if they lost to the superior power and technical ability of the serial World Champions. The US team alone won seven of the last nine world championships.

Having failed to advance to the semifinals, our girls went on to lose the first classification play off to France by 84-62 and the second one to Canada by a single point (73-72) to place 8th overall. A grateful nation has since taken note of the girls’ exploits and we expect that the team should be handsomely re- warded. They should be optimally motivated and kept together for future competitions. The girls have demonstrated uncommon abilities and even more potentials for future successes. We have no doubt that they are capable of becoming world champions. These girls are good.

What remains is for the government and indeed all other relevant stakeholders to provide the best environment and conditions for the girls to actualise the great dream. This is why government must now quickly do the needful by first rewarding them for their great achievement.

All Nigerians know exactly what would have happened if this feat were to be achieved by the Super Eagles. This is the opportunity to demonstrate that all sports matter and that we do not put more premium on male than female contributions to sports.

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The last time President Muhammadu Buhari received the girls in audience at the Aso Rock Villa and rewarded them with one million naira each for emerging African champions and beating Senegal to the 2017 Women’s AfroBasket title. This time, our glorious girls deserve a higher honour.