The Super Falcons are at it again.
They are about to extend history today when they take on the only team to have dented their record during this outgoing season of the Women’s African Cup of Nations Championship, AFCON, rounding off in Ghana today. South Africa’s Bayana Bayana have been outstanding in this year’s event and are the only team that defeated Africa’s most successful female national team in the very first match by a painful lone goal. As the curtains are drawn this afternoon, both teams that have already qualified to represent the continent in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, meet to settle their scores in what will be a nail-biting finale to a great championship to determine the best team on the African continent in 2018!
The major stake in this final match is prestige. The Super Falcons, 8 time-winners out of the last 10 championships, are poised to avenge their painful first-round defeat and restore their place as the most successful national women’s football team in the history of African football.
The ‘Greatest’ Elephant Girls of African basketball!
The First Bank Basketball Club is Nigeria’s most successful women’s basketball team in history. It returned from the 2018 FIBA Africa Women’s Club Championship with a well-earned third-place medal around their necks. For a team that was idle and did not play in any major competition for most of the season, it was a great and consoling result. Even the national basketball league did not start until 9 months into the season due to the crisis that crippled all activities of the national basketball federation during the season. Despite that, it was truly remarkable that they went to Mozambique, played very well, and only narrowly missed out on playing in the finals for the second year running, when they lost to host and eventual winners, Club Ferroviario of Mozambique, in the semi-finals. The team only started their own season one month to the African championship. They went to Mozambique with an assembly of 7 local players and 5 professionals that joined them from the US and Congo DCR on the eve of the event. The championship started slowly for First Bank but the team improved slowly but steadily from match to match until the very end when they played their best match and defeated V. Club of Congo, 93 to 69 points, to clinch Third-Place. Two of the Elephant Girls, Ayisa and Mfutila, received 2 of the 5 individual awards at the end of the championship. Interestingly, the Nigerian representatives have attended more championships than any other club in the continent since its inception. Twice, they have won the coveted championship. In Nigeria, the Elephant girls have the best records of any team in the country’s basketball history. They have become the unofficial barometer to measure the ‘temperature’ of Nigeria’s basketball’s development and growth. When First Bank BC is doing well, the Nigerian national team is also doing well. This year, First Bank Women’s Basketball Club was the country’s sole representative at the African championship. Congratulations to the ‘greatest’ Elephant girls of Africa.
Chief Justice versus Planner the Dazzler – the unusual encounter!
In this season of nostalgic recall in this column, I have an unusual story to tell about two people deeply involved in my career in football. The first is very well known and documented, whilst the second is also well known but his relationship with my career undocumented and unknown until now. My relationship with ‘Chief Justice’ Adokie Amiesimaka in the Green Eagles for 4 years, from 1977 to 1981, remains a highlight of that period. Adokie’s dribbles and immaculate crosses from the left side of Nigeria’s attack became a major component of my record as a goal-scorer on the right side, earning me the enviable record as the second-highest goalscorer in the history of the national teams of Nigeria, with 23 goals in 43 international Grade A matches, second only to Rashidi Yekini’s haul. My relationship with Yakubu Ibn Mohammed is neither well known nor documented. That relationship was ignited last week when Adokie and Yakubu met at a social event and compared notes on some common links between all three of us. I knew Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, as Planner the Dazzler, the nickname we called him throughout our childhood years at St. Murumba College in Jos. We were friends, classmates and mates in our school’s football team throughout our 5 years stay in that great institution. Between 1966 and 1970, Planner was the star athlete in my school and one of the most outstanding in the whole of Benue Plateau State. He was the complete article – Track athlete and footballer in one package. He was captain of St. Murumba College Football team and one of the fastest things on two legs in the sprints in the whole State. So good was he that he became only one of two football players that moved up to play for the Mighty Jets of Jos as students from St. Murumba College. The other was late Tijani Salihu. When Planner went on to Ahmadu Bello University, he kept up his sports prowess and represented the university at both track and field and football throughout his undergraduate days there. It was during this period that he and Adokie Amiesimaka had their major encounter on the field in the finals of the football event of the 1976 NUGA games. The match was between the University of Lagos, Unilag, where Adokie was king and was mesmerizing football fans with his nifty dribbles, and Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, where Yakubu was dazzling opponents with his quick acceleration and incredible sprinting down the flanks to score great goals. Both of them were key players in their university teams. On that fateful evening, however, Yakubu’s ABU prevailed and narrowly won. The match became epic not only for the high quality of the performance of both teams but also for the unusual gesture during the medals presentation ceremony after the match. Unilag was the first to be presented their Silver medals in accordance with tradition. When it came to the turn of ABU to collect their own Gold medals, to crown the events of that eventful evening, the team, led by Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, stunned the audience when they specially invited Adokie Amiesimaka of Unilag, to join them on the podium and to be adorned with one of their Gold medals as well! It was an unprecedented gesture. It was the generous appreciation of the brilliance of Adokie’s sterling individual performance during the match, of his ceaseless tormenting of the ABU defence, and of making the match one of the most entertaining, friendly and memorable in NUGA history. So, in addition to his Silver Medal, Adokie received a Gold medal as well. ABU won by 2-1. But it is that extended story of the medals that has remained hidden in the archives until both players met and unearthed it again during their chance encounter last week in Port Harcourt at a State banquet hosted by Governor Wike of Rivers State. Adokie Amiesimaka, MON, is a retired Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Rivers State, whilst Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, is the current Director-General of the Nigeria Television Authority.
I salute both of my friends!
Me and Politics!
In two days’ time, my journey into the bowels of Nigerian politics will enter a new phase. The past four months since my political excursion began have been an incredible learning curve in a ‘planet’ that is proving to be worse than I could ever have imagined. I needed to get into the political fray to really come to grip with just how bad things really are in the governance architecture of Ogun State and the country. Yes, I am having a ball playing this ‘new’ game of life. The experiences have been chilling, and have challenged my patience to no small end. All my sports sensors and senses are up and running and I am set for the big game of campaigns that take off this week. I intend to test the potency and power of the Football star against the forces of money and corruption in Nigerian politics. This is an open invitation to all stakeholders in Nigerian sports to rise up and support me in this epic encounter that could open up a new vista for practitioners of sports in the political planet, or put an end to a new space to dream the ultimate dream of a marriage between sport and politics, something that has taken off and is blossoming in Liberia and Pakistan and could change the global political paradigm should it work. The global link to my political world takes off when the official website opens its content on Sunday, December 2, from 12 noon.
I invite all to visit it at www.segunodegbamiogunstate2019.com