The African Game Aiming For Olympics Recognition

In many parts of Nigeria and beyond, Ayò Olọ́pọ́n, is called different names. Photo: Facebook/National Sports Festival – Edo 2020

 

Two men, possibly in their early to mid-fifties, sat across from each other under a shaded tree. Some motorcycles are also parked metres away.  Excitement, concentration, and wit were plastered on their faces. 

They are hurdled over a wooden board whose surface is punctuated by 12 hollows – each containing a cluster of ash-coloured seeds – amid the watchful eyes of an interested audience, who would have loved to be the participants.

But for such a friendly game, the atmosphere is extremely fierce.

Johnson Adeoye, wearing a blue shirt with yellow stripes, looked up to acknowledge greetings from the small but boisterous crowd. And like a grandmaster, he dipped his hand into one of the hollows in the brownish wooden board to pick up some ball-like seeds.

In a swift anti-clockwise move, he deftly began to drop seeds in the adjoining hollows, emptying them in a frenzy as he raced to victory [8-0] against Adebayo Ademola in a cozy evening at Otutu Street in the ancient town of Ile-Ife, Osun State.

The game is Ayò Olọ́pọ́n –  as it is referred to in the Yoruba-dominated South West of Nigeria – the African board game on a quest for Olympic recognition.

In the literal sense, Ayò Olọ́pọ́n means “the game of the wooden board” in Yoruba, one of the widely spoken languages in Nigeria.

Across the country, it is known by different names. Among the Igbos, it is called “Ncho,” or “Nchoro,” Nsa Isong and Dara among the Efiks and Hausas. In the Bini language, Ogirise is the name of the game while the Tiv people of Benue call it Teratar dar to mention a few.

Played in many parts of Africa, it is similar to the Endodoi of the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania and belongs to the family of Mancala board games.

In some West African countries like Ghana, Senegal, etc, and in the Caribbean, the strategy game is known as Oware and Wari respectively. In East Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Comoros, Malawi, and some areas of DR Congo and Burundi, it is called Bao.

The different names seem to point to one thing – difficulty in singling out an ethnic group or country as the originators of the game.

The game was featured at the 20th National Sports Festival in Edo State earlier in the year. Photo: Facebook/National Sports Festival – Edo 2020

 

But in tracing its origin, a historian, Dr Akin Ogundiran, did not mince words in pinpointing where it emanated from.

It is pervasive among the Niger-Congo peoples – from the edge of the Sahara in Senegal to the rainforest of Central Africa and from the coast of West Africa to the beaches of East Africa, the historian noted.

“We can make a strong case that the game originated from the ancestors of the present Niger-Congo-speaking peoples, the largest language family in Africa,” the professor of Africana Studies, Anthropology and History at the University of North Carolina, told Channels Television.

“The game spread with the expansion of those ancestors from their savanna homeland (present-day Senegal-Mali-Mauritania boundaries) into the rainforest between 7,000 and 3,000 years ago,” he said, explaining that “it reflects advanced cognitive and quantitative skill sets about the time that many people in West Africa (proto-Niger-Congo ancestors) began to adopt agricultural subsistence, farming communities, and settled life, 7,000-5,000 years ago.

“It is a game that every country in Sub-Saharan Africa should elevate to the status of national heritage. As we know, many social innovations and even technology began with games.”

Beyond the African shores, it is played in the Caribbean – taken by enslaved Africans during the Middle Passage – where it is known as Wari and is played by millions of people.

While the historian has tried to explain the origin of the game, enthusiasts like Osun lawmaker, Babatunde Olatunji, say there are inadequate records pointing it back to Africa and fear that the continent could lose this “part of our cultural heritage”.

“I can foresee in the nearest future, we may not be too surprised to have seen history being rewritten and somebody proving to us that it does not also emanate from us,” Babatunde stated in a phone interview, noting that even the little research about the game was carried out by people outside the continent.

A Talent From God

Like millions who enjoy the game, Johnson, who hails from Osun State, told Channels Television that he started playing it at a young age.

The board game has gotten him fame having won many laurels including three gold medals at the 20th National Sports Festival held recently in Edo State.

“I was 13 years old when I started playing the game. I did not learn it from anyone,” Johnson, who became the first gold medalist when the game was introduced at the 11th National Sports Festival, held in Imo State in 1998, said.

“One day, I just called my dad and told him, ‘Let me play this game with you!’ And I defeated my dad 12-0.”

“I did not have any coach to train with. My talent is from Almighty God. Nobody trained me. In my family compound back then, they played the game.”

How It Is Played

The dream to make the game part of the Olympics will face many hurdles. Facebook/National Sports Festival – Edo 2020

 

The version of the game played by Johnson might be a popular one in Nigeria but in several nations and ethnic groups in the country, there are slight variations.

For the Yorubas, Ogundiran noted that two types of materials – a twelve-hole rectangular wooden box and 48 Ayò seeds, which are now made of marble or plastic-like seeds, are used for the game.

“Four seeds are placed in each hole. Only two people can play the game, and each player will have six holes on his/her side-24 seeds for each player. Two individuals take turns to play the game by distributing the seeds from one hole into the other holes in an anti-clockwise direction,” he explained, describing it as “what we call sowing. If there are three or fewer Ayò seeds on the opponent’s side, the player collects those.

“The players take turns to play until they exhaust the seeds, or it becomes practically impossible for one of the players to make any move. The goal of the game is to capture as many seeds of the opponent as possible. The player with the most number of seeds wins the game.”

 A ‘Central Role’

Beyond the joy of victory, the game is an integral part of the lifestyle in most communities.

In many towns and villages, it is a common sight to see people gather under shaded trees in the evenings playing it while trying to cool off after the day’s job.

At other times, the elderly converge at palm wine joints, engaging each other in the game.

Aside from adults, children and teenagers also have a thing for it. In most rural areas, kids of varying ages usually gather in village squares to prove their mettle.

It also offers more than recreational values – as most seemingly mundane things in the continent have spiritual undertones. This explains why it is an integral part of festivals in some communities. The game is one of the highlights of the Osun Osogbo Festival in Osun State where winners go home with various prizes.

“The spirituality of Ayò Olọ́pọ́n derives from its central role in our history. It connects us to the past and the deified ancestors who invented the game,” added Ogundiran, who is also the Editor-In-Chief of the African Archaeological Review.

“In another vein, Ayò Olọ́pọ́n is a game where the character (ìwà), patience (ìfarabàlẹ̀), insight (ojú-inú), and deep thought (àròjinlẹ̀) are molded. Those who excel in the game are called ọ̀ta (the knowledgeable ones), and the losers are òpè (the ignorant). The game shows how much premium the Yoruba and other African groups place on knowledge and competitiveness.”

“So, to understand [some]aspects of African social organization, recreation culture, and modalities of social interaction, the codification of work and leisure, we need to pay attention to Ayò Olọ́pọ́n,” Professor Ogundiran explained.

Olympics Dream

As with many traditional African sports – Dambe, Kokowa, and Langa, etc – the game does not have the glamour and interest generated by games like football, basketball, and tennis to name a few.

Observers believe it has not been given the recognition it deserves and may go into extinction.

“I was more concerned at some point in time because the game is no longer visible as it was before,” the Osun lawmaker, added. “I hardly see people playing Ayò Olọ́pọ́n.”

According to him, if Americans are laying claim to basketball while Europeans/Brazilians see football as their own game, nothing stops Africans from pitching their tents with it and other traditional sports.

As part of efforts to raise more consciousness about the game, he now hosts a yearly competition in the South West state and his major focus is younger people whom he noted should tap into the potentials of the board game.

“Ayò Olọ́pọ́n can be well-branded and made to be so attractive to take a fair share of the multi-billion-dollar board game industry,” he said.

With Nigeria’s unemployment rising from 27.1% to 33.3% in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the latest data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in mid-March 2021, he believes rebranding the board game will make it a money-spinner.

“I see it as a game that can create jobs. Can you imagine we have a league on Ayò Olọ́pọ́n! Those who come to play, we have to kit them,” the lawmaker explained. “So, people can make materials and make money. You can have caps branded as Ayò Olọ́pọ́n; your favourite teams, you can have their T-shirts; you can have their caps.”

Already, it is played in various competitions at local and international levels. At the National Sports Festival – Nigeria’s “Olympics,” it is a medal-winning sport and registered as Ayo.

But the Chief Whip of the Osun Assembly also dreams big for it.

“One of my wishes is to see the game being played in the Olympics someday,” Babatunde, who represents Ife North, further stated, hoping that it would also be “credited as a game that came from Africa; to be seen as Africa’s contribution to the world.”

For people like Babatunde who wish to see the game and other traditional sports in competitions as big as the Olympics, there are hurdles ahead.

Before a sport is approved for the quadrennial sports fiesta, it must be vetted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and there are myriads of rules set by the 99-member body.

First, the sport must be governed by an International Federation (IF).

“This is required in order to conform to the Rules of the Olympic Charter, the World Anti-Doping Code as well as the Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of Manipulation of Competitions,” read a statement on the Olympics website.

“It must also be practised widely across the world and meet various criteria,” another post on the Olympics website, explained.

“After that, the IOC‘s Executive Board may recommend that a recognised sport be added to the Games programme, if the IOC Session approves it.”

The multiplicity of traditional games in Africa is also a big challenge in pushing indigenous sports like Ncho to more international competitions, the Nigerian Traditional Sports Federation, explained.

According to the federation, harmonisation of the different African indigenous games is one of the first steps among many in the quest to have these sports feature in more international competitions.

“Let us come together in Africa to agree on the sports we want to sell,” the secretary-general of the federation’s caretaker committee, Ahmed Libata, said in an interview.

“Traditional sports are practiced everywhere; they [games] are in every country and every country has their own peculiar sports.”

While some traditional sports like Langa, Kokowa, and the strategy game are predominant in many countries in Africa, he noted the same cannot be said of other games which are peculiar to certain areas.

In a bid to resolve this, he noted the federation had resorted to decentralising traditional sports competitions in the country, limiting them to areas where each traditional game is dominant.

“That is why we have to [organise] maybe Ayo competition in Ibadan; Kokowa in Kaduna; Dambe in Katsina; Langa in Gombe; Abula maybe in Delta or Bayelsa,” Libata stressed. “We have to at least try to decentralize them so that they will be easier to organize.”

“So, when we find that the athletes [for a particular traditional game] are predominant in a zone, we try to put a competition in that zone so we can bring out our talented youths,” he added.

Continuing, he said the federation and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development are adopting a grassroots approach in scouting for talents.

“I know they [talents]are everywhere. That is why we are trying to decentralise some of these sports in our zones,” the scribe said, insisting that traditional games are quite popular especially among the younger generation but need branding to make more international tournaments

“If you see some of the games that make it to the Olympics, they are just traditional games that have been packaged and branded well,” Libata stated.

“And I see some of these games [traditional games] as what can be put on the global sphere; we will package them and brand them so well.”

‘No Sponsor To Support Us’

Ayo Olopon.
Mr Johnson, and others having a great time playing the game. Photo: Facebook/Johnson Adeoye Ayo Olopon.

 

Libata’s position on branding is not the only roadblock to more traditional African sports making global tournaments. Johnson, who has played in many competitions, says Dara, as the Hausas call the board game, needs “promoters”.

He recalled that prior to the All African Games in 2003, an exhibition tournament was held for the game as part of efforts to include it in the competition but “we have not heard anything again!”

“It is painful because this Ayo game is played all over the world. It is played in Afghanistan; it is played in Turkey; they play the game in Brazil, it is played in Trinidad and Tobago.

“And there is no sponsor to support us. That is the biggest challenge we are facing now,” the player, who took part in his first major tournament in 1987, told Channels Television.

“Our Traditional Sports Federation in Nigeria is working to ensure that in the next All African Games, Ayo would be introduced. I would be happy if the game is introduced to the Olympics or Commonwealth Games because my plan is to play it at the festival (Commonwealth Games or Olympics; All African Games).

“The game needs more promoters and sponsors because the game is played all over the world. We need help to popularise the game.”

Johnson may have won many medals playing the board game but he does not enjoy the kind of fame accorded those who play other popular sports like football or basketball.

Still, he says “we are making money through the game”  he takes as a hobby and called on Africans to “show more interest in the game because it is easy to play”.

While corroborating the lack of interest in the game and other traditional sports, Ogundiran, a former lecturer, Florida International University, pinned it on what he calls a “colonial mentality.”

He faulted Africa’s mode of socialisation, wondering why youths should respect their cultural heritage if the older ones see it as nothing.

“If Ayò Olọ́pọ́n is played in schools and there are inter-class and inter-school competitions, I am sure the game will not lose its relevance. We play draft and chess; why not play a game that speaks to the deep-time African history and culture?” the lecturer wondered.

“Africans suffer from a colonial mentality. We tend to neglect what makes us human and embrace what dehumanizes us.”

‘Potential For Learning’

He is, however, not the only one to have linked the board game and other traditional sports to learning institutions.

Research has connected African indigenous games to improved cognitive, arithmetic, and general problem-solving.

Dr Rebecca Bayeck, who holds dual-Ph.D. in Learning Design and Technology and Comparative International Education, reviewed five African board games while trying to see if they held any educational potential.

Her research – A Review of Five African Board Games: Is There Any Educational Potential? – was published in the Cambridge Journal of Education. She found out that playing Oware, the name [Ayo] is called in Ghana, teaches strategic thinking and arithmetic. She explained that it also teaches patience, spatial thinking, negation, and decision-making skills among others.

Findings from the study also suggested that the mechanics of the game showed that it could prove handy in biology. Just as the cell, Oware is characterised by a series of cyclical, repetitive movements guided by the mechanics of the game. The Oware mechanics, she continued, can be used in explaining the concept of the cell life cycle.

In another study, The Use of Indigenous Games in the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics, Professor Mogege Mosimege found out that African traditional games can change the teaching and learning of the subject.

“They do not only make it possible for learners to engage in activities that are enjoyable,” the South African lecturer wrote, “they have a great potential to help open avenues for the connection between concrete and abstract concept, between classroom environments and activities outside the classroom.”

 

Olympians, Paralympians Want United Fight Against Climate Change

Picture Courtesy: International Olympic Committee

 

In an inspiring video produced with support from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), athletes who participated at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo are calling on world leaders to deliver on climate action.

The call becomes necessary as world governments, business, and civil society representatives meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this week in Glasgow, Great Britain.

Initiated by Hannah Mills, MBE, double Olympic champion in sailing and the most decorated female British sailor of all time, and British Olympic rower Melissa Wilson, the video features more than fifty Olympians and Paralympians from different parts of the world.

These include three-time Olympic medallist Pau Gasol (basketball, Spain), who is also a member of the IOC Athletes Commission; double Olympic champion and marathon world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge (athletics, Kenya); Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion Tom Daley (diving, Great Britain); double Olympic champion Andy Murray (tennis, Great Britain); Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion Emma Twigg (rowing, New Zealand); Tokyo 2020 Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft MBE (wheelchair racing, Great Britain); Tokyo 2020 Paralympian Koyo Iwabuchi (table tennis, Japan); Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion Martine Grael (sailing, Brazil); and many others.

The athletes reflect on the challenges and obstacles they overcame as they chased excellence at Tokyo 2020, and called on the world’s leaders to do the same as they gather at the “Olympics of climate summits” to decide on the global response to the climate crisis.

“The Olympic dream is all about being the best you can – and that doesn’t just mean competing or winning medals; it means being a good global citizen. I feel that we have a responsibility to use our platforms to highlight the need for all of us to live and operate in a more responsible manner,” said Mills.

READ ALSO: COP26 Climate Summit Must Act To ‘Save Humanity’, Says UN Chief

In 2019, also supported by the IOC, Mills launched the Big Plastic Pledge, an athlete-driven movement to eliminate the use of single-use plastic within and beyond sport. She believes that if the entire sporting community changes their habits, and makes their voices heard, the ripple effect can create a global tidal wave of change.

“Our environmental movement is fortunate to have the support of the IOC,” says Mills.

“It is a clear demonstration of their commitment to building a better world through sport. However, sport is just one part of a much greater global picture. We are counting on world leaders to take accelerated climate action at COP26.”

“The IOC is delighted to support this initiative, and help Olympic athletes use their powerful voices to create a more sustainable future for everyone,” said IOC President, Thomas Bach.

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced, and the IOC is proud to be leading the Olympic Movement’s response to this crisis. Our recent commitment to reduce our carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and our support for this initiative are part of this effort. Sport has the power to make the world a better place, and today we have an opportunity to use this power in the face of climate change.”

Sustainability is a key pillar of Olympic Agenda 2020+5, the strategic roadmap of the Olympic Movement.

The IOC is working to ensure that sustainability principles are embedded across its activities as an organisation, as the owner of the Olympic Games, and as the leader of the Olympic Movement. As part of this effort, the IOC works with athletes to leverage their inspirational power to promote sustainability through sport.

Lucy Ejike, 21 Others In Medal Chase As Paralympics Games Begin Today

 

The much-awaited paralympic games are set to begin as the opening ceremonies commence today.

Twenty-two athletes will be representing Team Nigeria in the Tokyo 2020 games this year.

It would be recalled that the last edition, at Rio 2016 in Brazil, was the most successful outing for Team Nigeria, which became Africa’s best team and 17th overall on the medal table with eight gold, two silver and two bronze medals.

In Tokyo, Team Nigeria Paralympians will participate in four events: Para Powerlifting, Para-Athletics, Para-Table Tennis and Para-Rowing.

The first Paralympics debut for Team Nigeria was far back Barcelona 92, with six athletes who came back with three gold medals.

Nigeria’s largest contingent to the games was in Sydney 2000 with 31 Paralympic Athletes when Team Nigeria returned home with 13 medals.

The team captain, Lucy Ejike (44) who would be featuring in her sixth Paralympics after making her debut at Sydney 2000, has promised that the contingent would surpass the record at Rio 2016.

Ejike won a medal in each of the games she has been in, winning gold medals in 2004, 2008 and 2016 and silver medals in 2000 and 2012.

The 22 athletes on the team are:

Flora Ugwunwa – Athletics – F
Iyiazi Njideka. – Athletics – F
Lauritta Onye. – Athletics – F
Nwaozu Chituru – Athletics – F
Galadima Suwaibidu – Athletics – M
Tijani Latifat. – Powerlifting – F
Ejike Lucy. – Powerlifting – F
Ibrahim Mujinat – Powerlifting – F
Omolayo Bose. – Powerlifting – F
Obiji Lovelyn. – Powerlifting – F
Oluwafemiayo Folashade -Powerlifting- F
Okpala Pauline – Powerlifting – F
Ibrahim Dauda – Powerlifting – M
Yakubu Adesokan – Powerlifting – M
Innocent Nnamdi – Powerlifting – M
Ijeoma Kingsley – Rowing – M
Fairh Obazuaye – Table Tennis – F
Tajudeen Agunbiade – Table Tennis – M
Olufemi Alabi Olabiyi – Table Tennis – M
Ahmed Koleosho – Table Tennis – M
Ogunkunle Isau – Table Tennis – M
Farinoye Victor – Table Tennis – M

Nigeria Ends Tokyo Olympics Campaign With Two Medals As Adijat Loses In Wrestling

Oborududu (l) and Brume’s medals gave Nigerians reasons to smile.

 

Wrestler Adijat Idris lost out to Ukraine’s Oksana Livach in the quarter-final of the 50kg women’s freestyle event on Friday morning to end Nigeria’s hopes of adding more medals to its cabinet at the Tokyo Olympics. 

Livach defeated the 19-year-old 10-0 by technical knockout, meaning Team Nigeria ended the Games with two medals.

Nigeria’s only medals were from Blessing Oborududu and Ese Brume. Brume won a bronze medal in the women’s long jump event, while Oborududu clinched silver in the women’s freestyle 68kg wrestling category to rekindle the country’s battered hopes in an Olympic where ten of its athletes were suspended.

Adijat Idris during her fight against Ukraine’s Oksana Livach. Photo: [email protected]_tokyo2020/

 

The country’s participation at the Olympics was marred by internal squabbles which many observers blamed for the athletes’ outing in Tokyo.

Several athletes had raised concerns over their welfare before and during the Games in the Asian nation.

Earlier in the week, shot-putter Chukwuebuka Enekwechi made headlines after he posted a video of himself washing his “only” jersey ahead of the event, providing further insights into the welfare of the country’s contingents.

He later assured everyone that all was fine and battle-ready for the final –  where he ended 12th.

Nigeria’s Chukwuebuka Enekwechi competes in the men’s shot put qualification during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP)

 

Sportswear giants Puma’s termination of its four-year contract with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) further highlighted the leadership crisis in the federation which has marred preparations for Tokyo.

“As a direct consequence of the recent developments, particularly at the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 and pursuant to clauses 9.2 and 7.3 of the Agreement,” the company said, “we hereby terminate the Agreement with immediate effect.”

READ ALSO[Tokyo Olympics] Oborududu, Brume Give Nigerians Reasons To Cheer With Two Medals

READ ALSO: [Tokyo Olympics] FG Rewards Medalists Oborududu, Brume

‘A Page In History’

Nigeria’s delegation parade during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

 

As Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told the Nigerian contingent before their departure, they opened “a page in history” for themselves and the country can draw many positives from their outing in Japan despite the disappointments.

For the first time, the nation had a gymnast at the Games – Uche Eke – as well as in the Canoeing Sprint with Ayomide Bello.

Nigeria’s Enoch Adegoke (C) wins the men’s 100m heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on July 31, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

On the track, Enoch Adegoke broke a 25-year jinx as the first Nigerian to reach the final of the men’s 100m event. He ran 10.00secs  but could not finish the final race due to injury. In 1996, Davidson Ezinwa became the first Nigerian to achieve the feat.

USA’s Tamyra Marianna Stock Mensah (red) wrestles Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududu in their women’s freestyle 68kg wrestling final match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Makuhari Messe in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (Photo by Jack GUEZ / AFP)

 

Oborududu, the 10-time African champion, also wrote her name in Nigeria’s Olympics folklore when she became the first Nigerian to win a medal in wrestling on the biggest sports competition in the world.

#Tokyo2020: Adegoke Fails To Finish As Italy’s Lamont Jacobs Wins Men’s 100m

(From L) Nigeria's Enoch Adegoke, USA's Ronnie Baker, China's Su Bingtian, USA's Fred Kerley compete the men's 100m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 1, 2021. Odd ANDERSEN / AFP
(From L) Nigeria’s Enoch Adegoke, USA’s Ronnie Baker, China’s Su Bingtian, USA’s Fred Kerley compete in the men’s 100m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 1, 2021. Odd ANDERSEN / AFP.

 

Enoch Adekoge failed to finish at the 100 metres men’s final event in Tokyo today, leaving Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs to claim Olympic gold in the keenly-contested race. 

While Lamont on Sunday broke retired Jamaican star Usain Bolt’s 13-year hold on the blue riband event, Nigeria’s Adegoke was forced to stop midway, holding his thighs, with anguish boldly written all over his face.

Jacobs, 26, timed a European record of 9.80 seconds, with American Fred Kerley taking silver in 9.84sec in one of the most understated major 100m races in recent times.

READ ALSO: Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs Wins First Post-Bolt Olympic 100m Gold

Nigeria’s Enoch Adegoke could not finish his race at the Olympics final.

Canada’s Andre de Grasse, a bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, repeated the feat as he ran a 9.89seconds.

Adegoke who in the course of the competition had broken Nigeria’s records in athletics, on Sunday became Nigeria’s first 100m Olympic finalist since 1996 clocking 10.00s in heat 2 of men’s 100m semis.

He used the biggest platform in sports, the Olympics to join the exclusive club of sub-10 seconds runners after running 9.98 seconds to win his first-round heat which also booked his place in the semi-finals of the 100m event in Tokyo.

With this feat, he becomes the 11th Nigerian in history to run a sub 10.

3rd Nigerian male to run 100m final

Adegoke raced again into Nigerian history books as the third man to make the final of the 100m event at the Olympics after the duo of Davidson Ezinwa and Olapade Adeniken.

The reigning Nigeria speed king had given himself a chance of making history when he came second behind Britain’s Zhana Hughes to secure the second automatic slot and qualify for the final.

The other Nigerian in the event, Ushoritse Itshekiri pulled up at the finish to exit the competition with a 10.29 seconds performance. He ran 10.15 seconds in his first-round heat.

Basketball: Team USA Beat Nigeria, Extend Olympics Winning Streak To 50 Games

Nigeria’s Ify Ibekwe contests for the ball with America’s Tina Charles at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo. PHOTO: Twitter-D’TigressNG

 

The United States Women’s basketball team have extended their Olympics winning streak to an incredible 50 games, although they were forced to labour for it against an impressive and determined Nigerian team.

Nigeria’s D’Tigress lost to the U.S. team 72-81 in the preliminary round Group B opener at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo.

The result confirmed Team USA has been flawless since the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona. It was not a pretty performance by the Americans, but they managed to get the job done.

In the first quarter, Nigeria showed good control and tenacity on the defensive end and caught the American off guard early in the game. At the end of the first quarter, Nigeria led 20-17 and had forced eight turnovers from the US women.

But the defending Olympic champions bounced back in the second quarter and dominated the game. At one point in the second quarter, they ripped off a 23-0 run, won the quarter 27-12, and built a double-digit lead at the break. At this stage, they were never in danger of losing the game.

Team USA won the third quarter 26-18 and got a little lackadaisical towards the end of the fourth quarter and the D’Tigress took control, dominated the match, and won it 22-11 to narrow the winning margin by just nine points.

 

‘Next Game Will Be Better’

Just last week, in an exhibition game in Las Vegas to prepare for the Olympic Games, USA humiliated Nigeria 93-62 points and D’Tigress coach, Otis Hughley, can use the latest result to motivate his team ahead of games against France and Japan.

At the post-match briefing, Hughley admitted he would have preferred playing another team in the opening game.

“It’s like starting your boxing career and they tell you you’re fighting Muhammad Ali (USA) in his prime. Now that is not something you’re looking for. ‘I want to box, but I don’t want to box that bad’” he said.

Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, said he was so proud of the Nigerian ladies and their performance despite the outcome of the game.

“I watched the game from the start to the end. Every moment. I saw players who can fight, and they fought.

“From 20 points disadvantage, they climbed back steadily, the height and built of the Americans notwithstanding. The next game will be better. I trust them. Going up against the Americans as they did, our team is good and can be better,” he said.

Nigeria’s D’Tigress will be back on the court on Friday for their second Group B match against the French team.

Pope Hopes Olympic Games Will Be ‘Sign Of Hope’ In Pandemic


Pope Francis waves as he delivers the Sunday Angelus prayer from the window of his study overlooking St.Peter’s Square at the Vatican on July 25, 2021. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Pope Francis said Sunday he hopes the Tokyo Olympics, which opened Friday, will be a sign of hope and “universal brotherhood” during the coronavirus pandemic raging around the world.

“In this period of pandemic, let these games be a sign of hope, a sign of universal brotherhood and of a healthy competitive spirit,” the pontiff said at the end of the Angelus prayer.

“May God bless the organizers, the athletes and all those who are collaborating for this great celebration of sport,” he told faithful gathered on Saint Peter’s Square.

READ ALSO: Fans Urged To Stay Away From Olympic Marathon Over COVID-19 Fears


Faithfuls listen to Pope Francis delivering the Sunday Angelus prayer from the window of his study overlooking St.Peter’s Square at the Vatican on July 25, 2021. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

The Games opened officially on Friday in a nearly empty stadium after being postponed for a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

AFP

Brazil Held As South Africa’s Qualification Hopes Hang In Olympic Football


Ivory Coast’s goalkeeper Eliezer Ira (2nd R) makes a save during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s group D first round football match between Brazil and Ivory Coast at the Yokohama International Stadium in Yokohama on July 25, 2021. Yoshikazu TSUNO / AFP

 

Reigning champions Brazil were held to a goalless draw by the Ivory Coast in the men’s Olympic football competition on Sunday, while Andre-Pierre Gignac’s hat-trick in a 4-3 win over South Africa kept France’s hopes alive.

Brazil, who won gold for the first time five years ago on home soil in Rio, could have moved to the brink of qualification for the knock-out stage in Yokohama but were denied by a stubborn Ivory Coast.

It could have been worse, though, as they had to play more than an hour with 10 men after Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz’s 13th-minute red card for bringing down Youssouf Dao when he was through on goal.

Eboue Kouassi’s late dismissal evened up the numbers, but the Ivorians held on as former Barcelona winger Malcom missed a late chance for the South Americans.

Brazil lead Group D on goal difference ahead of their final game of the opening phase against Saudi Arabia, who lost 3-2 to Germany to be eliminated from the competition.

Felix Uduokhai’s 75th-minute goal gave Germany, who had Amos Pieper sent off midway through the second half, a crucial three points.

The Germans, looking to win men’s gold for the first time as a unified nation, will reach the next round with victory over the Ivory Coast in three days’ time.

France would have been staring at an early exit with a slip-up against South Africa, but veteran striker Gignac rescued Les Bleus in a pulsating match in Saitama.

The Group A encounter burst into life after a goalless first half, which saw South African midfielder Luther Singh miss a penalty, as Kobamelo Kodisang put the underdogs ahead eight minutes after the restart.

The 35-year-old Gignac, captaining France in Japan, levelled shortly afterwards, only for Evidence Makgopa to restore South Africa’s slender lead in the 72nd minute.

Former Marseille star Gignac, who last played for the French senior team in 2016, equalised again.

Teboho Mokoena thought he had won the match with just nine minutes to play with a wonderful curling strike that flew in off the crossbar, but Gignac slotted home his fourth goal of the tournament from the penalty spot five minutes later.

READ ALSO: Fans Urged To Stay Away From Olympic Marathon Over COVID-19 Fears

France almost ‘on plane back’ 


France’s players celebrate their fourth goal during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s group A first-round football match between France and South Africa at Saitama Stadium in Saitama on July 25, 2021. Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP

 

There was still time for France to snatch a winner, as Gignac found Teji Savanier to drill in a low strike in the second minute of added time.

“After each South African goal it felt a little more like we were on the plane back,” said Gignac, who has played for Mexican club Tigres since 2015.

“We saw the joy after Teji’s goal and we gave ourselves a final against Japan. With heart, we can do well. We don’t want to return to France.”

South Africa, who were hit by two players testing positive for Covid-19 in the Olympic Village before the tournament started, will need to beat Mexico in their last group game and hope Japan get the better of France to have any chance of making the last eight.

 


South Africa’s players react to their defeat during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s group A first-round football match between France and South Africa at Saitama Stadium in Saitama on July 25, 2021. Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP

 

The hosts held on to register their second straight win with a 2-1 success against Mexico, who are second above France on goal difference.

Goals from Real Madrid youngster Takefusa Kubo and Ritsu Doan put them in control inside the first 11 minutes and it proved enough despite Roberto Alvarado halving the deficit.

Spain moved to the top of Group C as Mikel Oyarzabal’s late strike — their first goal of the tournament — downed Australia 1-0. Argentina beat Egypt 1-0.

In Group B, Honduras came from behind to beat New Zealand 3-2 and South Korea thrashed 10-man Romania 4-0 to leave all four teams on three points.

AFP

World No One Barty Suffers Shock Defeat In First Round Of Olympics

Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo celebrates after defeating Australia’s Ashleigh Barty during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles first round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 25, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

World number one Ashleigh Barty crashed out of the Olympics women’s singles tennis tournament in the opening round on Sunday, losing 6-4, 6-3 to Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Barty, the reigning Wimbledon champion, dropped serve twice in each set and made 55 unforced errors compared to just 13 for her opponent.

“I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to get through today, it just wasn’t my day. Credit to Sara though, she is always a tough competitor,” said Barty, the first women’s top seed to lose in the first round at the Olympics.

“I never really felt comfortable out there and wasn’t able to play the match on my terms. The key to my game is serving well and I wasn’t able to do that today. I was a bit erratic and made too many errors.”

“I felt like I had to be aggressive today and she made me press and overplay,” she added.

Sorribes Tormo, ranked 48th, will go on to face France’s Fiona Ferro in the second round.

“It’s an amazing feeling, I still can’t believe it,” she said.

“It’s something incredible for me. It’s something that I’ve been dreaming of all my life, being here and even more so beating the world number one. I’m super, super happy.”

While Barty’s bid to become the first Australian singles gold medallist in tennis ended prematurely, she and partner Storm Sanders are through to the second round of the women’s doubles.

Barty could potentially come up against Sorribes Tormo again in the quarter-finals of that competition. Sorribes Tormo and Paula Badosa reached the last 16 by beating Mexican duo Giuliana Olmos and Renata Zarazua.

Sorribes Tormo dismissed concerns over playing twice on the same day as the International Tennis Federation’s extreme weather policy was activated with temperatures again reaching 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) in Tokyo.

The rules call for a 10-minute break, if requested, between the second and third sets once the reading goes above 30.1 Celsius, while changeovers and set breaks have been extended by 30 seconds.

“It doesn’t matter the conditions. We are here to play, we are here to enjoy and that’s what we will try to do,” said Sorribes Tormo.

AFP

Suarez Navarro Earns First Win Since Cancer Recovery At Olympics

Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro returns a shot to Belgium’s Elise Mertens and Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s doubles first round tennis match against at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 24, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

Carla Suarez Navarro secured her first win after recovering from cancer as she defeated Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in the first round of the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday.

The Spaniard, a former world number six, returned to action at the French Open last month having been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in September 2020.

She lost in the first round at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, where she was beaten in three sets by eventual champion Ashleigh Barty.

But Suarez Navarro, playing at her fourth Olympics, won for the first time since February of last year, beating Wimbledon quarter-finalist Jabeur 6-4, 6-1.

“I am really happy. For me, it was tough all these months. I was so happy on the court and I really enjoyed this week,” said Suarez Navarro, who underwent eight sessions of chemotherapy as part of her recovery.

“This is a really special event for me, for us, for everyone. I am really happy for my first win after the comeback.”

Suarez Navarro plans to retire following the US Open in New York, but is hoping to round off her farewell tour with a flourish. She will play Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova in the second round in Japan.

“It was difficult, but I was practising a lot. I was trying to win at Roland Garros and Wimbledon but (it) was not possible,” said Suarez Navarro.

“But here I am feeling really good, and I played a really good match today, and I am looking forward to the next one.”

AFP

Richarlison On Target As Brazil Beat Germany In Olympics


Brazil’s forward Richarlison (2ndR) and teammates celebrate after Brazil scored their fourth goal during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s group D first round football match between Brazil and Germany at the Yokohama International Stadium in Yokohama on July 22, 2021.
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

France’s bid for men’s Olympic football glory got off to a nightmare start with a 4-1 defeat by Mexico on Thursday, while Richarlison scored a hat-trick as reigning champions Brazil beat Germany in a six-goal thriller.

Sylvain Ripoll’s France are looking for a first Olympic medal since winning gold in 1984, but collapsed in the second half at Tokyo Stadium.

“We’re obviously disappointed with the result but also with the balance of our play,” said former Lorient boss Ripoll.

“To compete, we would’ve needed a big performance, but that wasn’t the case.”

Mexico took the lead less than two minutes after the break through Alexis Vega, before Sebastian Cordova doubled their advantage in the 55th minute.

Mexico’s forward Alexis Vega (R) vies with France’s midfielder Teji Savanier during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s group A first round football match between Mexico and France at Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on July 22, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

The 35-year-old captain Andre-Pierre Gignac, whose last game for the French senior team was the Euro 2016 final loss to Portugal, pulled one back from the penalty spot with 21 minutes remaining.

But any thoughts of a comeback were quashed as Uriel Antuna and Eduardo Aguirre netted late on for 2012 champions Mexico.

France now face a tough task to get out of Group A with a top-two finish, ahead of games against Covid-hit South Africa on Sunday and hosts Japan on July 28.

“The first thing we now have to do is digest this disappointment,” added Ripoll. “We only have two days. There’s no time to waste.”

Japan saw off South Africa, who had two players test positive for Covid-19 on Sunday, 1-0 thanks to Takefusa Kubo’s second-half strike.


Brazil’s midfielder Paulinho (C) celebrates with Brazil’s forward Richarlison (2ndR) after he scored his side’s fourth goal during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s group D first round football match between Brazil and Germany at the Yokohama International Stadium in Yokohama on July 22, 2021. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

Brazil, who won gold for the first time when inspired by Neymar on home soil five years ago in Rio, downed Germany 4-2 in a dramatic match which saw forward Richarlison net a first-half hat-trick.

The Everton man scored three times inside the first half an hour, but Matheus Cunha missed a penalty and Germany then threatened an unlikely second-half comeback.

Bayer Leverkusen’s Nadiem Amiri pulled one back before the hour mark, and although Maximilian Arnold was sent off shortly afterwards, substitute Ragnar Ache cut the deficit to one goal with seven minutes of the 90 left.

But it was another Leverkusen player, Paulinho, who came off the bench and put the match to bed for Brazil in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Ivory Coast also picked up three points in Group D as AC Milan’s Franck Kessie netted the match-clinching goal in a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia.

READ ALSO: France Thrashed By Mexico In Olympic Opener As Brazil Beat Germany

Spain held by Egypt 

Spain struggled in Sapporo, as a team featuring six players who reached the Euro 2020 semi-finals dominated possession but created few chances in a 0-0 draw with Egypt.

The closest they came to a goal was when Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos, who recently spent two seasons on loan at Arsenal, crashed a first-half shot against the post.

Spain, winners on home soil in 1992, next take on Australia in three days’ time before their final Group C match with Argentina.

Australia took early control in the table, as goals from Lachlan Wales and Marco Tilio saw them beat 10-man Argentina 2-0.

New Zealand made a successful start in Group B as Burnley striker Chris Wood, one of the three over-age players in the squad, secured a 1-0 victory over South Korea in Kashima with his 72nd-minute winner.

It was their first-ever win in Olympic football, having managed just one draw in each of the 2008 and 2012 tournaments.

An own goal saw Romania edge out Honduras 1-0 in the group’s other game.

AFP

Japan Defeat South Africa In Olympic Football Opener

Players greet each other after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s group A first-round football match between Japan and South Africa at Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on July 22, 2021. PHOTO: Mariko Ishizuka / AFP

 

South Africa went down 1-0 to Japan in their Olympic football opener on Thursday, after their squad was forced to isolate in the lead-up to the game.

A video analyst and two players — James Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi — tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday, with 21 members of the team contingent named as close contacts the following day.

Strict anti-virus protocol meant they had to stay in their rooms and eat meals alone, and the team missed two training sessions until they were allowed to resume.

Athletes designated as close contacts at the Tokyo Olympics must test negative six hours before their event to be allowed to compete.

READ ALSO: France Thrashed By Mexico In Olympic Opener As Brazil Beat Germany

There were fears the match in Tokyo would not be able to go ahead if South Africa could not register the required minimum 13 players.

But they cleared that hurdle with six substitutes named on their bench, and almost claimed an unlikely point against Japan with a battling performance.

Real Madrid forward Takefusa Kubo ended their resistance in the 71st minute, however, cutting into the box before lashing home a left-foot shot.

Japan had the better of the first half but failed to convert their chances, with Kubo and Koji Miyoshi both wasting good opportunities.

Daichi Hayashi put the ball in the net only for the linesman to flag for offside, before Kubo ended the first half with a free-kick that whistled narrowly past the post.

Hayashi had another golden chance in the second half, but South African goalkeeper Ronwen Williams pulled off an excellent save from close range.

AFP