Nigeria, holders of the last 3 African women’s basketball championship titles, are going into the 2023 campaign, which takes place from July 28 to August 6 in Rwanda, with no certainty. The reason for this is that the Nigerian national team is without some of its best players.Of those who took part in the 2 previous AfroBasket tournaments, only 4 survivors will be in Rwanda:Sarah Ogoke, Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, Amy Okoronkwo and Elizabeth Balogun.
T-Tiggers continue to bleed: latest episode
In retrospect, this situation is the result of poor management and several surprising decisions. The most recent of these was the appointment of a new coach, Rena Wakama, a former T-Tiggers player, just ahead of the 2023 Women’s AfroBasket (in June). She opts for trials in various locations (Chicago, Lagos and Abuja) to determine her performance group. This will take place between July 8 and 11. Yet another setback for the D’Tigress.
This situation prompted Oderah Chidom, one of the team’s stars, to quit the squad. She denounces the management as anything but professional.”This is a national team.Generally, what you do is you invite a group of professionals and you take part in a camp, then the best 12 from that camp can compete in any team and that’s mainly how a national team is run.”Moreover, communication is not optimal.
For a long time, the team’s executives have navigated in a state of expectation. “It’s really difficult not to have a sense of communication, not to have a sense of professionalism. All our information comes from Twitter and social networks. […] We never know what’s going on. We ask a lot of questions about simple things like when is the camp? Where is it?Who are the coaches? And we get answers like please be patient […] Everything we do is last-minute. The level of professionalism is simply not up to our performances”.
Communication and problematic management by the Federation to amplify the problem
This lack of communication, say the players, who still held out a slim hope of making the squad despite their absence from the camps, was one of the causes of their mass defection.Adaora Elonu, the former captain of the team absent from the squad, told ESPN that many would have taken part in the trials, had they been given sufficient notice. “The short notice was a challenge,” she lamented. She spoke of the “against-the-buzzer” race it required. You would have had to travel to another state, with all the expenses involved. That alone, if it was something you had planned, might have been possible. I know a lot of girls who reached out and wanted to go, but the notice was too short.”
Ify Ibekwe, her team-mate in previous competitions, believes that the short notice was punishment for the video that went viral, calling for the payment of allowances and bonuses on the sidelines of the World Cup. Another reason for the players’ continuing process of discouragement.
The federation, meanwhile, denied the players’ claims of “orchestrated sabotage“. Those close to the president told ESPN that “each player had an equal chance of competing for a place at the trials, and it’s up to the coach to select the best for the 2023 Women’s AfroBasket”.
The origins of the national team’s self-destruction: Act 1
After the Nigerian national team took off and stayed on course with 3 titles in Africa and a quarter-final place at the 2018 World Cup, Nigeria self-burned its wings. Qualified for the World Cup, Nigeria was withdrawn by President Buhari (since replaced) from all Basketball competitions for a positioning quarrel at the Federation.For a period of 2 years.The reason? Open conflict between 2 camps. Each proclaimed winner in 2 elections to designate the NBBF president. The “technical fault” was a blow to the players, quarter-finalists 4 years earlier. Reactions to the disillusionment of missing out on this global celebration were all the rage. “I want to say ‘wow’. I don’t think I’ll ever wear the green and white again”, posted Ezinne Kalu, the team’s playmaker at the time, on social networks.
Musa Kida confident about Afrobasket 2023
This is the situation in which the national team finds itself. Crippled by the loss of some of their best players, they will be going into battle to try and win a 4th trophy in a row. With their pool of talent, the task is not impossible. However, the turnover of the squad and the lack of automatism could prove a hindrance to this objective.However, NBBF President Musa Kida is quick to point out that open trials for the national team are nothing new.”We did the same thing in 2017 and formed a team that won the AfroBasket in 2019“.