AFA remembers early days as D’Tigress battle U.S.
Nigeria’s rise in women basketball is not a happenstance. The victory over Greece on Wednesday that put the D’Tigress into the quarterfinals of the on-going FIBA Women World Cup in Tenerife, Spain had its roots in an empowerment project, which created an enabling environment for the game to thrive even in the midst of a distractive leadership crisis.
And today, Nigerians will witness, for the first time, their darling D’Tigress taking on U.S. in a battle for a semifinal slot. The U.S. team, on paper, looks like a mountain too high for Nigeria to climb. However, the general consensus among basketball followers is that even if the girls lost today’s game, they have done enough to deserve heroines’ accolades. Stakeholders also believe the girls have shown that the country now has a solid foundation to build on.
But the girls say they are not going into the game with a defeatist attitude. They will take today’s clash with the reigning champions and favourites the way they faced Turkey and swept past them, met South American champions, Argentina and made them pay dearly for what happened at an entirely different event in Russia last June.
Nigerians desired vengeance for what the Super Eagles suffered in the hands of Lionel Messi and his colleagues and D’Tigress rose to the occasion fulfilling their promise. The Greeks are known for world-class basketball but that did not stop D’Tigress from believing in themselves.
It can be rightly said that having gone this far more Nigerians have come to believe in them. But there were not many individuals and corporate bodies that believed in these young ladies way back in 2017 as they prepared to face the entire Africa in Mali AfroBasket. The ladies believed in themselves and so did Africa For Africa.
About two years ago, some young Nigerians with a dream to maximize the potential of basketball in the country assembled in Lagos and created Africa for Africa Sports, which is commonly known worldwide now as AFA Sports.
The organisation became the first African sports apparel manufacturer to feature in a major international tournament when they assumed the responsibility of kitting the D’Tigress at a time no other big name companies were ready to identify with them. That partnership led D’Tigress to a historical success in Bamako.
That success reverberated around the world and those who had forgotten Nigeria began to put calls through to the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) to schedule negotiations.
The Chief Executive Officer of AFA Sports, Ugo Udezue says he can beat his chest now because he believed in the team early enough.
He says, “We saw a world-class team even when some others saw otherwise and decided to put our money on them. They hadn’t played a game but we believed in the organisational structure from which the team was emerging. Perhaps, a monumental part of this journey to the world is how much their performance is powered by the support from AFA Sports.
“The CTG technology in the AFA shoes provides extra grip, speed and precision so that you are always one step ahead of the competition. The soft micromesh material allows athletes to stay hydrated in the most humid of climates.
“The truth is that no one can understand the needs of an African athlete more than a fellow African, and these products were tailor made to fit the needs of the African athlete like a glove. Now we can all gladly say go D’Tigress and the joy is for every fan of the team.”
Even after they conquered Africa, there was still just a modest sense of expectation that the Nigerians could do something positive in Spain. They stopped over in Ankara to camp and played the Turkey national team, who incidentally were in the same group at the World Cup. The Nigerians were beaten from the tip off to the buzzer such that those who had no investment in them gave them no chance in Spain.
Australia beat Nigeria 86 to 68 to help those in doubt and their investors were satisfied that they played well against the Opals. The girls responded remarkably drilling the same Turkey 74 to 68 in a quick turnaround. They have moved on to an unprecedented three straight wins and a resounding quarterfinal battle against the classy USA.
It’s a fairytale for everyone involved as team captain Adaora Elonu, who is a Euro League Women regular and has WNBA minutes to her name told FIBA.Basketball.
“We didn’t know what to expect from the World Cup as none of us had been here – it’s just a ride that we’re taking,” she confessed.
“I’m happy for us, because we’ve been through a lot and our motto was to stay together and we stayed together.
“The national team is who you are and your culture. It just resonates so much stronger than any other team – not to take anything away from any other team.”
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