Farewell to one of the worst years in Nigerian sporting memory

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If there is one year that Nigerians will want to consign to the rubbish bin and ideally erase it from memory entirely, it would be 2022.

Of course, there have been years in the past where Nigerians have looked back in retrospective relief at their sports highs and lows, more than happy to put it all in the rear view. But this year plunged to new lows.

Almost everything that could go wrong, did. And despite the glowing individual efforts of athletes Tobi Amusan and Ese Brume, this ranked as the worst year in Nigerian sports.


Football is the undisputed king of sports in Nigeria, and wherever it goes, the rest follow. Monumental barely scratched the surface of the scale of failure that Nigerian football suffered in 2022, all the way from domestic leagues to the senior national teams.

How much worse can it get than the Super Eagles returning empty-handed from the Africa Cup of Nations, and failing to qualify for the World Cup? Additionally, the Super Falcons not only returned empty from the Women's Africa Cup of Nations, but lost to both Morocco and Zambia in quick succession.

It all kicked off in February, when the Super Eagles travelled to the AFCON in Cameroon and, for only the second time in 22 years, failed to make it to the podium. The last time they failed to do so was in 2008, when they were beaten by hosts and rivals Ghana in the quarterfinals.

Although the groundwork for failure was laid in 2021 with the firing of former coach Gernot Rohr, it all came to fruition starting in Cameroon. Having failed to sign Jose Peseiro to replace Rohr, the NFF handed the reins to former captain and coach Austin Eguavoen.

As Technical Director, the stand-in role fell to Eguavoen, and with barely weeks to prepare his team, the former defender got off to flying start, winning all three group games at the tournament, and re-energizing a fan base, seemingly jaded from the disenchantment of the previous coach.

But all that came to nought in their first knockout game, when the high-flying Super Eagles fell to Tunisia, a team that barely scraped their way to the round of 16.

Despite that loss, Eguavoen appeared to have done enough in the previous three games, to convince the NFF to keep him for the World Cup qualifiers a month later. That did not end well.

A 0-0 draw in Ghana, was followed by a 1-1 draw in Abuja, leaving Nigeria out of the World Cup on the away goals rule. Amaju Pinnick's gamble to fire Rohr had backfired. That failure, ultimately torpedoed his ambition to run for a record third term as NFF president, leading to the election of Ibrahim Gusau.

But that was not all. The Super Falcons, serial winners of the women's tournament, travelled to Morocco under Randy Waldrum, favourites as usual to win the title. But an opening day loss to South Africa portended worse things to come.

An unexpected semifinal loss to Morocco was as bad as it was supposed to get. Only to be followed by defeat to Zambia in the third-place playoff. Fortunately for Waldrum, by reaching the semifinals, the team did manage to qualify for the World Cup in the Antipodes later this year.

On the domestic front, in October Sports Minister Sunday Dare dissolved the League Management Company, the regulatory body running the Nigeria Professional Football League, after declaring the body "illegal".

In its place, an Interim Management Committee was set up, with a three-month mandate and instructions to start the league by the end of the year. With the year drawing to a close, the league is still in limbo. An agreement was reached with clubs to start the new season in January, in an abridged format.

In the meantime, of the four Nigerian clubs in CAF competition, only Rivers United remain in the competition, having dropped out of the CAF Champions League and squeaked through to the group phase of the Confederation Cup.

The one silver lining in a horror year for Nigerian football came from the under 17 women, who not only beat the USA but also finished third at the FIFA Under 17 World Cup by beating Germany in the playoff.


If football is the king of sports in Nigeria basketball is the crown prince. And just like football, they also had a horror year.

A crisis that had been brewing since 2017 finally came to a head in 2022, leading to a series of very bad, no-good consequences.

Rivers Hoopers were thrown out of the Basketball Africa League due to government intervention in NBBF activities, thus contravening FIBA rules. As a result, the sports minister directed that elections be held in line with FIBA directives.

Despite a FIBA-supervised election having taken place, the country's president decided to withdraw the country from international basketball, alleging multiple elections. By the time the dust had settled, and the decision reversed, the women's national team, D'Tigress, had been thrown out of the FIBA World Cup.

The men's team, with three different coaches during the year, and severe lack of funding, have endured a torrid World Cup qualifying series and are now in real danger of not qualifying for the World Cup at all, with one window of qualifiers left.


Nigeria began the year with two world champions in Mixed Martial Arts -- Kamaru Usman, the UFC welterweight champion and Israel Adesanya, the middleweight champion.

By the end of the year, that number was zero.

Usman, the number one pound for pound fighter, went into his bout with Leon Edwards at UFC 278 as the overwhelming favourite to keep his belt and was on course to win the fight, leading on points going into the fifth and final round... Only to walk into a left kick and lose via knockout.

Adesanya suffered the same fate. Going into his fight with Alex Pereira also the overwhelming favourite. Like Usman, the Stylebender was leading the fight going into the fifth round, but ran into a flurry of punches and took a standing knockout to lose his belt.

In boxing, Anthony Joshua, who identifies as Nigerian even though he fights under the British flag, lost his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight belts to Oleksandr Usyk and was hoping to claim them back in the rematch in August. That bid failed, as he lost on decision after 12 rounds.


The Commonwealth Games provided the only high point for Nigerian sports in 2022, with Team Nigeria producing a record best ever performance at the 15th Games, in Birmingham. The country finished with 12 gold medals, nine silver and 14 bronze.

This was one better than the 11 gold medals won at the 1994 Games in Victoria, Canada. It also made Team Nigeria the best performing African nation at Games, finishing in seventh place.

By far the highlight of the Games was the performances of Tobi Amusan, who claimed gold in the women's 100m hurdles.

Amusan then went on to become the first ever Nigerian world champion and world record holder in an athletics event when she won the 2022 World Championships 100m hurdles gold medal, setting the current world record of 12.12 seconds in the semifinal, followed up by a wind-assisted 12.06 s in the final.