Vice President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, Babs Ogunade, says the crisis that has bedevilled the federation, which came to a height with the Federal Government’s withdrawal from international basketball in May, is responsible for the poor performance of Nigeria’s national men’s basketball team, D’Tigers during the recent FIBA World Cup qualifiers, The PUNCH reports.
D’Tigers recorded one win in three games, losing 78-66 to hosts Ivory Coast on Friday night at the 3,500-capacity Palais des Sports Treichville and putting their qualification hopes for next year’s World Cup in a tight corner.
D’Tigers lost their first game of the first window to eventual group leaders Cape Verde 79-71, and also lost their first game of the second window 79-70 to the same opposition to finish with two wins from four games.
And things didn’t get better for the Nigerians at Palais des Sports de Treichville in Abidjan, as they only managed a win against Guinea.
In the absence of Sacramento coach, Mike Brown, stand-in coach Mfon Udoh’s men bounced back in their second game to record an 89-70 victory over the Guineans, but they were brought down to earth in their last game of the series, losing 70-67 to Angola.
Before the Abidjan qualifiers, there was uncertainty over the team’s participation in Window 4 of the African Qualifiers, following the FG’s two-year ban on international basketball, which cost the country’s women’s basketball team, D’Tigress, a place at the Women’s World Cup.
Speaking with The PUNCH, Ogunade stated that the administrative crisis played a major role in the team’s poor outing.
“While I am not looking for excuses (for D’Tigers’ poor outing), the cause of this was the distraction in the federation. What people see on the court is the finished product, the job of preparing the teams for such an event is done in the backroom and once the backroom is not in order it affects the output on the court and that was exactly what we saw (in Abidjan).
“This was exactly what happened to D’Tigress. After they qualified for the World Cup, they were removed by the ministry and we all know that the solution to headache is not the cutting off of the head. As I said, I am not looking for excuses but these are hard facts and people need to remember that before the entire crisis, we were number one in Africa and 18 in the world, while the second country in Africa was ranked 44. We were the first team to beat the United States men’s team in America.
“So, the entire crisis cumulated to what dampened the spirits of the people in charge, and in all of these no money was paid to fund the team.”
On the team’s chances of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Japan, Indonesia and The Philippines, Ogunade added, “Truth is we have a very small window to qualify and we must beat all our opponents in the last window. Even at that, we can only qualify as best losers. It is going to be a very tough task but it is very possible. As at this time of the last qualification series, we were the first country to qualify in the world.”