Egypt Considers Bid To Host 2036 Olympics

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

 

Egypt is planning to apply to host the 2036 Olympic Games, sports minister Ashraf Sobhi said on Saturday during a reception for IOC president Thomas Bach in Cairo.

“President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi has given his permission for Egypt to put itself forward as host for the 2036 Olympics,” Sobhi said.

If successful with its bid, Egypt would become the first African or Arab nation to host the Olympics.

“Egypt has solid sporting infrastructures and if it can host the Olympic Games, it will be historic,” Bach said during a joint press conference with Sobhi.

An Egyptian official announced earlier in the month that Egypt, Greece, and Saudi Arabia were in talks to jointly host the 2030 World Cup.

Egypt staged the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, as well as last year’s handball world championship during the Covid-19 pandemic.

AFP

Beijing Winter Olympics Closed, Says IOC President

TOPSHOT – (L-R) Kazakhstan’s Angelina Shuryga and Italy’s Cristina Pittin compete in the women’s 30km mass start free cross-country event during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the Zhangjiakou National Cross-Country Skiing Centre in Zhangjiakou on February 20, 2022. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

 

The Beijing Winter Olympics are officially over, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach announced at the closing ceremony on Sunday.

“Now I have to mark the end of this unforgettable Olympic experience: I declare the 24th Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 closed,” he said in the “Bird’s Nest” stadium in Beijing.

A crowd of socially distanced spectators, separated by red lanterns, watched as the Olympic flag was lowered and passed over to the mayors of the next host cities, Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy.

The event was masterminded by acclaimed Chinese film director Zhang Yimou, who was also responsible for the 2008 Summer Games’ ceremonies.

As it began, children dressed in sparkling coats danced around the Olympic flame, holding up snowflake-shaped lamps, a continuation of the opening ceremony’s main motif.

China earned an unprecedented nine gold medals during the Games, coming ahead of the United States.

“With the truly exceptional Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 we welcome China as a winter sport country,” said Bach. “Congratulations, China.”

First 11: Nigeria’s AFCON Crash + This Week’s Biggest Sports Stories

First-Eleven

 

It’s been a week of drama at the Africa Cup of Nations. Nigeria’s shocking loss to Tunisia, and the red cards that marred the competition, were major talking points in the last seven days. Heartbroken fans trolled Maduka Okoye and Alex Iwobi following the defeat which sent out one of the tournament favourites.

These stories, FIFA’s linking of plans for a biennial World Cup to migration tragedies in the Mediterranean and others, headline First Eleven which gives a recap of the biggest sports gist for the week.

Tunisia Clip Eagles’ Wings

Tunisia’s players celebrate after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 23, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

The week began on a sad note for football fans in Nigeria after the Super Eagles’ early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Nigeria, three-time continental champions, were stunned 0-1 by Tunisia in a Round of 16 game in Cameroon.

Austine Eguavoen’s men went into the game as favourites having won all three group stage matches, the only team to do so. But a 47th-minute strike was enough for the North Africans to break the hearts of millions of fans in Nigeria. Although Nigeria battled to get the equaliser, a red card for former Arsenal star, Alex Iwobi, compounded the Super Eagles’ woes.

Fans Troll Okoye, Iwobi

A photo combination of Maduka Okoye and Alex Iwobi.

 

Iwobi’s sending off triggered a barrage of cyberattacks, not just on the midfielder but goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye. The Sparta Rotterdam man was faulted for not doing enough to stop the 2004 champions from scoring the lone goal in the match. Both were subjects of hate messages from fans who blamed the duo for the Super Eagles’ exit. Their names trended for days on social media, prompting them to disable comments on their Instagram accounts. Okoye, some of the fans claimed, was distracted by praises from female admirers.

Following the defeat, President Muhammadu Buhari had told Nigerians not to write off the team. In a short message on Monday, he asked fans to encourage the side, believing that they can do better in subsequent games.

“They gave everyone the confidence that they were up to it, and I am sure it was something they could have achieved,” a statement from a presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, read. “Nonetheless, we should not write them off”.

Red Cards Mar AFCON

The AFCON was tagged by many as a “tournament of red cards” following the number of players that were sent off in the competition.

 

Nigeria’s loss wasn’t the only thing that made headlines from the AFCON. In the first round of knockout fixtures, seven red cards were issued in eight games.  The development drew condemnation from several quarters. Fans on social media even dubbed the competition “AFCON of Red Cards”, throwing up further debates about the quality of officiating at Africa’s premier championship.

Coach Eguavoen was critical of centre referee, Maguette Ndiaye’s dismissal of the Everton star, describing the officiating as unfair. Aside from the former defender, Ghanaian ex-international, Mikel Essien, also questioned the number of red cards in the tournament. The former Chelsea player while lamenting the situation said it was “shocking” and wondered if the game had become soft.

Tragedy Rocks Tournament 

Supporters of the Comoros national soccer team celebrate their team goal during the match Cameroon vs Comoros in Moroni on Jan 24, 2022. Ibrahim YOUSSOUF / AFP

 

The red car controversy came amid a stampede that killed eight persons and wounded dozens of others before a match between the host nation, Cameroon, and Comoros.  The incident took place at the gates where final tickets checks are made. This prompted an investigation by Cameroonian authorities. The health ministry said the victims were immediately transported in ambulances but traffic slowed down their movement.

In a swift response to the tragedy, CAF blamed the incident on the closure of an entry gate at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde.

“If that gate was open as it was supposed to, we wouldn’t have had this problem we have now, this loss of life,” African football supremo, Patrice Motsepe, said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Who closed that gate? Who is responsible for that gate?”

A Case For Biennial World Cup

File photo: FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during the inauguration of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) new headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on October 30, 2018. Mohd RASFAN / AFP

 

The stampede happened days before FIFA tried to link migration tragedies in the Mediterranean to plans for a World Cup every two years.  Head of the football governing body, Gianni Infantino, said the move can give hope to migrants.

“I understand in Europe the World Cup takes place twice per week because the best players are playing in Europe,” he told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg.

“But if we think about the rest of the world… which doesn’t see the best players, which doesn’t participate in the top competitions, then we have to think about what football brings, which goes beyond the sport.”

Nadal Chases Record In Australia

 

Just as FIFA continues to make a case for a biennial World Cup, tennis stars are in Australia battling for one of the game’s biggest prizes. In a tempestuous match on Friday, Daniil Medvedev powered to a win over Stefanos Tsitsipas to book a date with Rafael Nadal in the final of the Australian Open.  The world number two beat Tsitsipas 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, the same day Nadal defeated Matteo Berrettini to reach his sixth Australian Open final in Melbourne. The Spaniard, pushing to become the all-all time men’s Grand Slam leader – 21 titles – claimed a 3-6 2-6 6-3 3-6 win.

The women’s category saw a ruthless Ashleigh Barty book a spot in the final. She won in straight-sets, demolishing Madison Keys, and will now face hard-hitting Danielle Collins in Sunday’s game.

Djokovic Still In The Court

In this file photo, Novak Djokovic of Serbia takes part in a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 13, 2022. Mike FREY / AFP

 

Although he is not in Australia, a leaked entry list, which made its way to social media, has indicated that Novak Djokovic would be playing at next month’s ATP Dubai tennis tournament. The Serb was in the news weeks ago after a COVID-19 vaccination row. But the list shared by tennis journalists showed that Djokovic was named as the top seed for the event.

This is coming weeks after he was deported by Australian authorities following a legal tussle. The unvaccinated player’s next move had become a subject of speculation since he landed at home in Belgrade, via Dubai. He was initially given an exemption to play at the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated but the Australian government later revoked his visa, a move upheld by the Federal Court.

Ranieri Fired 

In this file photo taken on April 01, 2018, ex-Nantes’ Italian head coach Claudio Ranieri attends the French L1 football match between Nantes and Saint-Etienne at The La Beaujoire Stadium in Nantes. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Earlier in the week, the English Premier League “sack race” continued. This time, Italian manager, Claudio Ranieri, was the latest casualty following his dismissal by Watford. He was sacked just after 14 games in charge as the Hornets’ boss, the club said in a statement earlier in the week. Ranieri was dismissed, just about three months after he got the job.

“The Hornets’ Board recognises Claudio as a man of great integrity and honour, who will always be respected here at Vicarage Road for his efforts in leading the team with dignity,” Watford said about the Italian.

The 70-year-old was brought on to stabilise the team which is battling relegation. But a string of poor results have left them in the murky waters of England’s elite league. The Hornets have only managed seven points since he arrived at the Vicarage Road. Ranieri’s last game in charge was a 3-0 loss to relegation rivals, Norwich, just last week. They are second bottom on the league log, following a loss of seven out of their last eight domestic matches.

Joshua Denies Pay Off Claims

In this file photo, Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk (L) fights British heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua at the end of their heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London on September 25, 2021. Usyk defeated Joshua on points. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

In boxing, Anthony Joshua has refuted reports claiming he agreed to a ($20 million deal to step aside from his heavyweight title re-match with Oleksandr Usyk. The reports had suggested that the Nigerian was ready to let the Ukrainian fight Tyson Fury in the unification title bout. But Joshua insisted the stories were false.

“I’m hearing people saying: ‘AJ accepts £15million to step aside’. I ain’t signed no contract; I ain’t seen no contract,” he was quoted as saying in a Talksport online video posted on Twitter. “So, as it stands, stop listening to the bullshit until it comes from me. I’m the man in control of my own destiny; I’m the man that handles my business.”

Usyk had defeated Joshua in September to deprive the 32-year-old of his World Boxing Association (WBA), International Boxing Federation (IBF), and World Boxing Organization (WBO) belts.

Buhari’s Message To Olympians

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

And as the Winter Olympics inches closer, President Buhari has urged Nigerian athletes to make the country proud in the games. A statement from the presidency on Tuesday quoted Buhari as telling the nation’s representatives of his trust in their ability to deliver.

“The President trusts that Nigerian athletes participating in different events will excel at the competition, surpassing the previous record in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018, when the nation competed for the first time,”  the Nigerian leader told the athletes, according to a statement from Femi Adesina.

Buhari said the Olympic Games is an avenue to foster friendship among countries. This is as he hoped that athletes will put the core values of the event –  excellence, friendship, and respect – on display.

China Warns Olympic Diplomatic Boycott Nations As France Rebuffs US Campaign

The Chinese map.

 

China warned Western nations on Thursday that they would “pay the price” for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as a French minister said they would not be joining the US-backed effort.

Washington unveiled its decision not to send a diplomatic delegation earlier in the week, saying it was prompted by widespread rights abuses by China and what it sees as a “genocide” against the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

Australia, Britain and Canada followed suit in a flurry of diplomatic bonhomie on Wednesday.

The boycott stopped short of not sending athletes to the February Games but nonetheless infuriated Beijing, which hinted at retaliation on Thursday.

“The US, Australia, Britain and Canada’s use of the Olympic platform for political manipulation is unpopular and self-isolating, and they will inevitably pay the price for their wrongdoing,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.

Soon afterwards Beijing received welcome news from Paris, as Education and Sports Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said France will not join the boycott.

“We need to be careful about the link between sports and politics,” Blanquer said during an interview with RMC radio and BFM television, adding France would carry on condemning human rights violations in China.

“Sports is a world apart that needs to be protected from political interference. If not, things can get out of control and it could end up killing all of the competitions,” he said.

Blanquer will not travel to the Chinese capital, he said, but junior sports minister Roxana Maracineanu will represent the French government.

– ‘A crucial step’ –
Advocacy groups have backed the US-led boycott effort, with Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson calling it a “crucial step toward challenging the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities”.

Campaigners say that at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.

Beijing has defended the camps as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said Wednesday that he was staying politically neutral on the matter, while insisting the important point was “the participation of the athletes in the Olympic Games”.

– Relations in freefall –
All four of the boycotting Western countries have seen relations with Beijing cool dramatically in recent years.

Britain has also criticised China for its crackdown in Hong Kong.

It angered Beijing last year by blocking Chinese tech giant Huawei’s involvement in its 5G broadband rollout, after Washington raised spying concerns.

Canada’s relations with China meanwhile hit a low over the December 2018 arrest in Vancouver on a US warrant of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, and Beijing’s detention of two Canadian nationals in response.

All three were released and repatriated in September.

Canberra’s ties with Beijing have been in freefall in recent years, with China introducing a raft of punitive sanctions on Australian goods.

China has been angered at Australia’s willingness to legislate against overseas influence operations, its barring of Huawei from 5G contracts, and its call for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia’s recent move to equip its navy with nuclear-powered submarines under a new defence pact with Britain and the United States — widely seen as an attempt to counter Chinese influence in the Pacific region — further enraged Beijing.

– ‘Extremely concerned’ –
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Britain’s boycott in parliament on Wednesday but joined the other three nations in saying athletes should still attend.

“I do not think that sporting boycotts are sensible — that remains the policy of the government,” he added.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canadian officials too would skip the Games, saying his government is “extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government”.

Australia’s leader Scott Morrison made a similar announcement earlier in the day.

Other countries are weighing their own moves.

The Kremlin, however, criticised the US move, saying the 2022 games should be “free of politics”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already accepted an invitation by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to attend.

bur-jta/je/ser

© Agence France-Presse

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, Okwe, or Nchoro, Nsa Isong and Dara among the Efiks and Hausas. In the Edo 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.

READ ALSO: UNILAG Set To Host 26th NUGA Games In March 2022

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 an 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, 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,” said Johnson, the first gold medalist when the game was introduced at the 11th National Sports Festival, held in Imo State in 1998.

“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 abilities, 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 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