14 August 2007
NIGERIA : The Tigers Land Angola in Batches, Unprepared
The final batch of the Nigerian national basketball team, The Tigers, were expected to land in Luanda late yesterday as the African Nations Cup takes the jump ball in Angola on Friday.
The Secretary of the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) Francis Gbiri confirmed the team’s movement to THISDAYSports following weeks of suspense and uncertainty concerning the country’s participation in the African elite basketball competition.
“By the arrangement the players will move in two batches. The first set made up of mainly players based in the USA arrived in Luanda Sunday while the final batch would depart Abuja via Lagos for Angola on Monday,” Gbiri confirmed late Sunday.
By the itinerary, those from the United States are made up of an American-born coach and the likes of Ikenna Ibekwe and Oguchi. Those leaving from Nigeria with the Secretary were billed to move to Lagos aboard an Aero Contractors flight by 8.00am and then connect to Ghana from where they fly straight on Luanda. Olumide Oyedeji and Ejike Uboaja who have been on holidays since the All Africa Games ended in Algeria are part of the batch from Nigeria.
The implication of the itinerary is that The Tigers will commence their first full training as a team today – just three days to their first match against Liberia. Their only saving grace is that a bulk of the team played the All Africa Games in Algiers.
The NBBF officials explained they were forced to cut off the initial camping programme as the cash response from National Sports Commission (NSC) only came three days to their departure even though an agreement had been reached long time before the Nigerian contingent departed for the Algiers Games.
The Nigeria men are in Group C alongside Liberia, Central Africa Republic and Congo DRC and will play the preliminary matches in the Angolan city of Huambo. The first match which will be played against Liberia is on Friday.
The next against Central Africa plays the following day and Congo on Sunday.
The championship ends August 25th. The competition also serves as Africa’s qualifying event to the Beijing 2008 Olympics with the winner picking the automatic ticket and runners-up securing a spot a world play off with teams from other continents at a later date.