13 August 2008

NIGERIA : African Nations Cup - Tigers Return With Ticket

by Pius Ayinor

The national men's basketball team The Tigers returned to the country Monday night from Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire with the a ticket to the 2009 African Nations Cup holding in Libya. Incidentally Coach Ayo Bakare who led the team to the tournament led the welcome reception as he returned 48hours of the delegation to be beside his new born baby and wife.

In a chat just before the team touched down at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos Bakare said the competition was played out far above the expectations of many followers of the game in Africa.
"It was obvious the hosts wanted to win at all cost. They brought in nine foreign-based professionals compared to the three that travelled with us and from the rickety bus that took us from Abidjan to Yamoussoukro and the way the game was officiated; it is obvious that they played against a desperate host country.
"We thank God we able to come out so strong," the national coach said.

The Tigers opened their campaign in the African Nations Cup qualifiers by beating Cote d'Ivoire 55-45. With only three teams available out seven in the African Zone 3 sector, Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria and Togo and to play against each other twice to produce a total of four matches each. The Tigers won three games as they lost the reverse game to Cote d'Ivoire.
Nigeria thus picked the first ticket while the hosts got the other as two teams qualify from each of the six zones on the continent while the hosts of the final, the defending champions and the third and fourth teams from the previous finals make up the number of 16 teams. Angolans are the defending champions - a position that gave them the Beijing 2008 Olympics slot.
The Tigers were guests of the Nigerian Ambassador to Cote d'Ivoire on Sunday. Ambassador Albert Olakunle Soyombo was host to a dinner party in his official residence in Abidjan.
"The Ambassador and his officials were quite good. They got in touch with us as soon as we got into that country," NBBF member Muktar Khaleh who was the head of delegation said of the event.

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