With year 2018 winding up, sports administrators, sponsors, athletes and technical officials are bracing up for a loaded calendar year of sporting activities in 2019, in which the football, basketball, tennis and other national teams, sportsmen and women will be chasing continental and global glories.
The major events for Nigeria in the year are the men’s Africa Cup of Nations, Women’s FIFA World Cup, as well as the usual annual events.
Lagos City Marathon
The sporting year will start with the long distance races as Nigeria host the rest of the continent in the fourth edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon Championship. The event will be staged in Lagos on February 2, 2019.
Super Eagles at 2019 Africa Cup of Nations
After missing out on back-to-back editions of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2015 and 2017, the Super Eagles have booked their place at AFCON 2019 after playing a 1-1 draw against Bafana Bafana last November at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
The Super Eagles, who were winners at the 2013 edition held in South Africa, could not defend their title in 2015, and again failed to appear at the 2017 edition.
The qualification for the Eagles came early as the three-time African champions have one more game to play in the qualifying series against Seychelles in March, 2019.
After five games, the Super Eagles have garnered 10 points, with one game more to be played.
Having been beaten 2-0 in the reverse game played in Uyo, the Eagles went for revenge in Johannesburg but ended in a stalemate.
Super Falcons at Women’s World Cup France 2019
Nigeria’s Super Falcons secured qualification to the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 following the team’s victory at the CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations Ghana 2018.
The Nigerians earned their spot at next year’s global finals with a penalty shoot-out win over South Africa in the final played in Accra after both sides played out a goalless extra-time draw.
Team’s Head Coach Thomas Dennerby has declared that Nigeria will work to prepare hard and take it one match at a time in the finals next year summer.
The African champions are drawn with hosts France, Norway and Korea Republic in Group A of the 24 –team championship, at a colourful ceremony inside the La Seine Musicale on the River Seine in Paris.
“There is no easy group here. I am okay with the draw because I always knew that we would have to play the best teams. That is what you do at the World Cup. The French team is, of course, world class, and I know we would have to fight very hard against them.
“The Koreans are very technical and have pace but we will confront them with our physical strength, ability and pace of our own and we have a great chance in there. I know the Norway team, more than they know us or can hope to know us. At the end of the day, it would come down to preparations. We must prepare very hard and then take it one match at a time during the finals,” the Swedish tactician said.
Supersand Eagles qualify for World Cup
The Supersand Eagles picked one of the slots to represent Africa at the 2019 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Paraguay.
They picked the ticket after edging hosts Egypt 7-6 in the semi-final of the CAF Beach Soccer Cup of Nations. The match, played in Sharm El Sheikh, was one of the most entertaining games of the tournament.
Veteran Abu Azeez scored four of the goals, to take his Nigerian tally to 103. Emeka Ogbonna netted twice and Taiwo Adams got one.
Supersand Eagles Coach, Audu Ejo Adamu, thereafter declared that the target of his wards at the CAF Beach Soccer Cup of Nations is the trophy, and not just the ticket to the FIFA World Cup.
“We came here to go all the way, by qualifying for the World Cup and winning the Africa Cup. We have achieved one of our objectives; the other is pending on Friday.
“I am happy that these boys did the nation proud by staying calm and then going hard when necessary to get the World Cup ticket. Now that we have qualified for the World Cup, we will be relaxed to play the final with huge confidence,” Adamu said.
Higher Institutions Football League
The Higher Institutions Football League (HiFL), which made its debut in 2018, is expected to hold again this year, as organizers have assured of continuity.
In the final played at the Agege Stadium, Lagos on November 3, UAM Tillers defeated UNICAL Malabites to take home the trophy.
Nigeria Professional Football League
Football fans will also witness actions in the local league, as the League Management Company (LMC) has concluded plans for the kick off of the nation’s apex football league on January 13.
Lobi Stars Football Club of Makurdi were crowned champions of the league last season following an abrupt end to the league by the organising body.
The League Management Company stated that they reached a consensus to end the league season after 24 games because of the concern about missing the October 15 deadline set by the Confederation of African Football. Every nation across the continent had to confirm their representatives for CAF club competitions by then.
Dala Hard Court Tennis
The Dala Hard Court Tennis Championship will enter its 33rd edition in 2019, with tournament organisers saying there are no plans to back out of the tournament’s funding.
Tournament’s Director, Yusuf Datti, said that the annual tennis event, which parades the best of Nigeria’s tennis players, will continue this year.
NCC Tennis League Cup
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Tennis League Cup, which has become a rallying point for Nigerian tennis players every year, promises to be stronger in 2019.
The Commission’s Executive Vice Chairman/CEO: Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta said the final of the 2018 final in Lagos that the NCC was very happy that the project has achieved all the objectives for which it was set-up.
“We have taken top-level tennis to more than 12 cities; we have raised the standard of the game and the profile of the players; junior players are taking advantage of the league and not only competing but beating seeded players.
“The competition can only get better and produce players that will participate in Grand slams and get very high ranking on the ATP tour.”
A former national champion, Thomas Otu rallied from a set down to win the fourth match that made Team Tech Vibes of Jos the fourth team to win the coveted NCC League Cup. Interestingly, no team has successfully defended the cup.
Zenith Bank Women Basketball League
The Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball League which was abridged in the 2018 edition will continue in 2019 as a regular league.
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