As the year winds down, Naij.com sports takes a look at several key moments that shaped Nigerian sports in 2015, which include the good, the bad and the ugly.
We look at some of the moments that brought us joy, celebrations and indeed mixed feelings in Nigeria in the outgoing year, in our 2015 Review series.
Let’s take a journey down memory lane.
1. Super Eagles Ouster From AFCON 2015
Although this event transited from 2014-2015, the sour memories of Super Eagles’ failure to defend a title they won in 2013, still lingers in the heart of football lovers in the country.
Nigeria failed to pick up an AFCON 2015 ticket after a 2-2 draw with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana back home at the Akwa Ibom international stadium.
The team under erstwhile coach Stephen Keshi, disappointed millions of their fans as they blew away the chance to be at the 30th edition of the AFCON staged in Equatorial Guinea in January – February 2015, in which Ivory Coast became eventual winners.
2. Flying Eagles/Super Falcons Poor Performance At The World Cup
Against all expectations, the Super Falcons and Flying Eagles exit from the FIFA World Cup at early stages marked another bitter memory for Nigerians.
While the Super Falcons exited the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada in the group stage, the Flying Eagles were knocked out of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand after losing 1-0 to Germany in round of 16.
Both teams went to the World Cup as African champions. But when it mattered, they both disappointed.
3. Stephen Keshi’s Sack and Sunday Oliseh’s Appointment
Barely 85 days after his return as head coach of the Super Eagles, Stephen Keshi was given the marching order for the second time in 8 months on July 4, 2015.
After about three years in the Super Eagles hot seat, the African Nations Cup winning coach was again sacked by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) after he was earlier dismissed and called back in October 2014.
Stephen Keshi’s sack comes weeks after the NFF began investigations on him over an application for the position of Head coach of the Ivory Coast national football team.
It was gathered that out of the 59 applicants, who were vying to replace Hervé Renard, the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF), Keshi was listed by the FIF among those who had declared interest in the job.
Going by that development, Keshi has broken the record as the most sacked manager in the country’s national team history
After Nigeria’s elimination from the World Cup, it was time to concentrate on the AFCON 2015 qualifiers.
If anything, our group was at the AFCON 2015 qualifiers, on the surface, one of the easiest from which we ought to have amassed the maximum points possible if we took qualification seriously.
However, things went wrong for Keshi after a run of bad results in AFCON 2015 qualifiers caused Nigeria an opportunity to defend her trophy she won in South Africa.
At such, Nigerians could easily fall back to say, Keshi did not perform any feat hitherto unperformed by another coach. The Africa Nations’ cup he won was not our first, and the World Cup he qualified us for was not our first.
Oliseh signed a 5 year deal which will see him earn N60m a year.
According to Amaju Pinnick, the president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Oliseh was selected because of his high intellectual capacity in coaching and recommendations by FIFA.
It hasn’t however being the best of years for Oliseh as the Super Eagles of Nigeria finished in a disappointing 66 position in 2015 FIFA ranking.
4. Nigeria’s D’Tigers Win Afrobasket Championship for the first time, D’Tigress narrowly miss out
The Nigeria senior basketball team, D’tigers, emerged the African champions for the first after beating former champions Angola, at the finals of the 2015 Afrobasket by 74 – 65.
The Nigerian team were bundled out of the 2013 Afrobasket at the Quarter-finals after putting up a shambolic performance, but the introduction of Will Voights, an American Coach has been key as the team which comprised of 80% of the same boys that played in 2013 became triumphant in 2015.
With this victory, D'Tigers have now automatically qualified for the men's basketball event of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Nigerian guard, Chamberlain Oguchi was awarded the tournament MVP and best 3 Point shooter, while Minnesota Timberwolves and Senegal’s rebound machine Gorgui Dieng won the best Rebounder and Scoring titles.
Oguchi and Al-Farouq Aminu made the Tourney’s best team also.
However, their female counter parts, D’Tigress, narrowly missed out in an automatic spot at Rio 2016 Olympics in the Africa Women’s Basketball Championship, otherwise known as Afrobasket, held in Cameroon.
The team missed out in the automatic slot, having finished third in the competition.
The 2003 and 2005 champions, claimed four out of the five matches in the group stage, beating Mozabique 71-66, fell 70-71 to Cameroon in the semi-final and defeated Angola, 65-55 to win bronze medal.
The team had earlier defeated the eventual champions, Senegal, 71-64 in the group stage.
The Tigress will play in a qualification series organised by the world governing body, FIBA in a yet to be decided date and venue.
5. Golden Eaglets successfully defending their world title in Chile
The national U-17 team, the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria, made history in Chile when they successfully defended their 2013 title won in UAE, matching Brazil’s feat as the two teams to have won the competition back-to back.
While Brazil were winners of the competition in 1997 and 1999, the Golden Eaglets became champions of the competition in the last two editions.
That tale doesn’t stop there, as for the second tournament running, the Golden Eaglets produced the best player of the tournament, with Kelechi Nwakali succeeding Manchester City’s teen star Kelechi Iheanacho. The team also made history by producing the second best player in Victor Osimhen who won the Golden Boot award after scoring ten goals to set a tournament record for most goals scored by a player in a single tournament.
It was also the first time Nigeria would win the U-17 world title outside Asia, having previously won in China, Japan, Korea and the UAE.
Another worthy mention is Samuel Chukwueze who has been linked with some top European teams after a nice display in Chile.
It Samuel Chukwueze not more than 25 seconds to write his name in the tournament record books scoring a quick-fire goal that put the Africans on the road to a 5-1 defeat of hosts Chile and into the last 16 of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2015.
The hard-running midfielder’s well-taken strike was the third-fastest goal in the history of the competition, exceeded in speed only by Brazilians Fabinho at Korea 2007 and Celso at Peru 2005. who took only nine and 14 seconds respectively to find the back of the net.
6. Enyeama’s Premature Retirement After Spat with Oliseh In Belgium, Emenike quitting weeks after
The arrival of Sunday Oliseh as head coach of the Super Eagles was greeted with so much reaction, especially given his inexperience in the game.
But with Oliseh preparing for his first competitive game against Tanzania in Dar-Es-Salaam, skipper of the team Vincent Enyeama was unavailable following the death of his mother.
After the burial of his mother, Enyeama immediately travelled to Belgium to link up with his teammate as Nigeria prepared to face DR Congo and Cameroon in two friendly games.
However, Enyeama will end up having an altercation with his coach, allegedly questioning the rationale behind Oliseh sticking with Ahmed Musa as Eagles’ captain despite his return and that of more senior players like Mikel Obi in the squad.
Enyeama had alleged that his confrontation with gaffer Sunday Oliseh arose after his dead mother was insulted.
But in a swift response, Oliseh claimed Enyeama lied and committed character assassination.
But just when many thought the Oliseh-Enyeama rift had begun to die down, following the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)’s disclosure of a testimonial to be organised for Enyeama,
The confrontation escalated quickly and dominated discussions for days, eventually leading to Enyeama’s premature retirement from the Super Eagles and with Nigerians still coming to terms with Enyeama’s retirement from international football via Instagram, Al Ain forward, Emmanuel Emenike, also called it quit to his international career, citing irreconcilable differences with Oliseh..
7. Nigeria’s abysmal performance at 2015 Beijing Athletics Championships
While other African counties like South Africa and Kenya returned from the 2015 Beijing Athletics Championships with medals to show for their efforts, Nigeria returned with zero medals.
Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare who was expected to lead team Nigeria finished a disappointing 8 in the 100m finals and pulled out of the 200m following an injury which hampered her performances and participation.
Back in 2013 at the World Athletics Championship, Okagbare picked up a silver and a bronze and it seems we had returned to the 1996 season in which the country’s athletes were successful at the Olympics.
But after failing in all other categories and sports, Nigeria’s last hope the female relay team finished fifth in the 4x400m Women’s relay on the final day of the event.
8. Enyimba winning the Glo League title a record seventh time
Enyimba made history in the Nigeria Professional Football League when they lifted the Nigeria Professional Football League title for the seventh time, the most by any Nigerian club.
The People’s Elephant, two-time CAF Champions League winners, were Nigerian champions in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2015.
For their efforts, they were rewarded with the sum of N30million for winning the title.
They will compete in CAF Champions League alongside second-placed Warri Wolves next season who finished as runners up.
9. Akwa United’s Federation Cup triumph
Akwa United made history winning in this year’s Federation Cup after they ended a 56-year jinx by beating 2003 winners Lobi Stars 2-1 to lift their first-ever national cup.
With this feat they will fly Nigeria’s flag in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup on account of this historic Cup triumph.
They will be joined by Nasarawa United who finished third in the NPFL.
10. Dream Team VI Triumph At CAF U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal
Having failed to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics, the Nigeria U-23s led by coach Samson Siasia overcame all the odds to win the CAF AFCON U-23 tournament in December 2015.
After starting with on a not too convincing display after a shaky 3-2 victory against Mali and a nervy draw with Egypt, both games in which they led but hung on in the end, the U-23 Eagles got the draw they needed against Algeria to qualify for the semi-finals.
A 1-0 victory in the semi-finals against host Senegal meant Nigeria will be making a return to the Olympics.
With the 2016 Olympic Games ticket already secured, Siasia became the first coach to qualify the team twice for the Olympics. He did it first in 2007 at the expense of arch rivals Ghana.
The U-23 Eagles went on to win the competition after a 2-1 win over Algeria in the final.
The team scored eight goals in the championship with five from the impressive Oghenekaro Etebo.
AAG: Team Nigeria Finish Third
Nigeria’s contingent at the All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville finished in the third position on the overall medals table.
They finished behind Egypt and South Afica at the summit of the medals’ table.
The sad death of Coach Stephen Keshi’s wife, Kate
The Big Boss, as Keshi is fondly referred to, revealed that his wife had been sick for a while but he never expect that the sickness will lead to her death.
Did we miss out in anything? Tell us in the comment box!