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Nigeria’s D’Tigers leave Rio happy despite winning only one game

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Brazil's power forward Rafael Hettsheimeir (L) and Nigeria's power forward Alade Aminu (C) go for a rebound during a Men's round Group B basketball match between Nigeria and Brazil at the Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro on August 15, 2016 during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Eric Gay / POOL / AFP

Brazil’s power forward Rafael Hettsheimeir (L) and Nigeria’s power forward Alade Aminu (C) go for a rebound during a Men’s round Group B basketball match between Nigeria and Brazil at the Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro on August 15, 2016 during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.<br />Eric Gay / POOL / AFP

They knew it would be a tough assignment at the group stage of the basketball event of the on-going Rio 2016 Olympic Games. They also knew that not many outsiders gave them the chance of getting any win the competition due to the caliber of opposition assembled in Rio.

Yet, they took to the courts with gusto, fighting every which way to confound the doubters. At the end, they managed a win and conceded four defeats to end their campaign in Rio.

But they are leaving the games happy with their efforts and the support they got from the Brazilian crowd.

The D’Tigers were the quintessential underdogs, who had all odds stacked against them right from the onset. Yet these basketballers, from a country once rated the land of the happiest people on earth, did not allow anything to hinder their quest for fulfillment even against the most dreaded opponents.

Nigeria lost its final game by 69 to 86 points to end their campaign here. But the proud players swaggered into the media mixed zone happy with themselves.

Speaking on their experience at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Team Coach, William Voigt, said “the boys put in their best. We played with a tremendous amount of energy and intensity at this level of competition.

“Their performance here speaks volumes… if we had a little support from those involved, we would have done better.”

Voigts disclosed that he would go back to his family, reflect on the Nigerian experience before deciding whether to continue with the D’Tigers or not.  “But the boys know that my heart and soul are with them,” he said.

The D’Tigers maintained their record of being the only African country to have ever won a game at the Olympics. At the London 2012 games, the Nigerians defeated Tunisia in one of their games. Here in Rio, the team also recorded a victory by beating Croatia.

There is the general belief here that if the D’Tigers had enough government support they would have done better. There was a period when things became so tough that some of the players threatened to abandon the dream.

Indeed one of the pillars of the team during the African Championship, Farouk Aminu, withdrew from the team due to issues with team insurance.

Some analysts say the team was able to train the way they did because they are all based in the U.S. if , adding, they were scattered like the footballers, it would have been difficult.

In his assessment of their performance in these games, Ike Diogu, who has been with the team since 2011, said, “We did our best here.

Our performance speaks volume of the kind of talents we have in Nigeria. We surmounted all obstacles to get to this level and now Nigerian basketball has earned enormous respect from the world.


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