03 June 2013

Nigeria: The Return of Ayo Bakare and Breaking of Afrobasket Jinx

The Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) last week reappointed Ayo Bakare as coach of the senior men's basketball team, D' Tigers. Bakare was said to have tendered his resignation letter after the London 2012 Olympics, as coach for the national team but federation president, Tijjani Umar revealed he never saw any letter from the coach that has an unmatched pedigree from the local scene.
Bakare's new task is winning the forthcoming 2013 Afro-basketball tournament coming up in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. It is one trophy Nigeria has never won despite coming close on some occasions. Bakare has the task of breaking this jinx, just the way he did in 2012 during the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela where Nigeria against all odds booked a place at the Olympics for the first time in history.
He will be assisted by Sani Ahmed of Kano Pillars-a man he has worked closely with and strike perfect understanding. Ayinla Johnson and the duo of Abdulraman Mohammed of Mikementors and Ogoh Odaudu of Royal Hoopers of Port Harcourt will also understudy him. The essence-continuity and steady roadmap towards succession.
NBBF president, Tijjani Umar said the reappointment of Ayo Bakare who is generally considered as one of the best coaches in the FIBA Africa is to allow continuity and stability in the team while debunking speculation that the coach resigned his appointment after the London 2012 Olympic Games. "His tenure as the terms of agreement we had with him expired after the Olympics. We never received any resignation letter from him and if he did make such pronunciation, it may be the way Keshi did after the Nations Cup.
My re-election as NBBF president was not that I am better than anybody, but people believed that I have made some appreciable progress in the last four years and there is need to continue in that direction. That is the same way we are bringing Ayo Bakare and his coaching crew for continuity and sustainability. Coaches are not chosen on sentiments but on what they can bring to the table," he said.
He said D'Tigers, who have not won the African Afro-Basketball tournament since its inception, but have came fourth, third and second must prove to the continent that their impressive runs during last year's London Olympics qualifier were no fluke by winning the 2013 event in Abidjan. "We have never won Afro-Basketball but have come fourth, third and second respectively. It is high time we won the tournament to show the rest of Africans that our qualification for
London Olympics wasn't a fluke. The home based players we are inviting to camp have a chance of make the team."
But for Ayo Bakare to succeed, the issues between him and some players will have to address as some foreign based players are believed to have vowed not to play under him. Umar sensing the sensitivity said: "This is a great opportunity for every player to play for the national team. Playing for the national team is like giving back to the country. Coaches are in charge and no player is expected to disrespect them. If any player does not want to play for
Nigeria because of a particular coach, that is okay by us. The coach is in charge and we must respect his wish. We don't influence the coach's decision. If you are top star in your club and the coach says you should sit on bench in the national team, so be it."
Ayo Bakare led Nigeria to a third finish during the 2011 Afro-basketball in Madagascar and won gold at the All African Games' basketball event in Maputo. D'Tigers is looking towards qualifying for the World Championship in Spain next year by winning the tournament in Abidjan.

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