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More Than Medals! Celebrating Teamwork & Determination- D’Tigers Represent Nigeria Till The End

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The Nigerian Basketball team was going to be at the Olympics for the first time ever. I was super excited, but when I saw the way the groups were arranged I became a bit pensive. Nigeria would be in the same group as the USA (the team had NBA players!) As with many Nigerians, I turned over our fate to a higher deity. After the initial win against Tunisia, it appeared they were headed on a downward spiral. D’Tigers lost their match against the USA team. D’Tigers were nevertheless not deterred; they pulled themselves up and gave their best on the court in the subsequent games. Some people joked about how we didn’t have any medals to show for the effort. However, one thing we didn’t stop to consider was the fact that this Nigerian team is very special. They’re Olympic champions in their own rights because they’re the first Nigerian team to actually qualify for the game of basketball at the Olympics. They had an impressive run in the qualifying games leading up to the Olympics.

It was even more impressive to see that the New York Times gave a very positive spin on the performance of D’Tigers at the London 2012 Olympics. As reported by the New York Times, the sportsmen were bruised and broken but it didn’t reduce their enthusiasm and their zeal to play for the country. By the end of the group stage, the team had only eight healthy players. Tony Skinn, the point guard of the team had surgery for torn quadriceps and one of  the leading scorers of the game against the USA team was reported to have broken a toe.

Reading that article, the one thing that struck a nerve with me was the fact that the Coach, Ayodele Bakare, did an impressive job of recruiting this team – one that was put together at the last minute. With less than a month to practice together, they were off to Venezuela for the Olympics qualifiers. They won all three games against already established international teams and that set them ahead of the pack, earning them the spot as the first Nigerian team to play basketball at the Olympics. Coach Bakare went over and beyond the call of his role as a coach. He was a friend and motivator. He “dared his players to dream”, according to the New York Times, and that in itself is as much of a victory as they come.

Bakare, their coach, general manager, insurance agent and travel secretary, embodied what D’Tigers became over the past six weeks. Not simply a basketball team. A historic one.

Some of the players acknowledged their lack of experience especially in the face of what loomed, but they were optimistic and they trained hard and worked hard for the games. With little or no help, the team arranged for gym practices,and even insurance for those who didn’t have it.

For D’Tigers, this was a historic outing and one that can never be understated especially with the ever prevalent “Naija Factor.

We, as a people, need to have a more positive approach towards appreciating ourselves in order to help promote optimism and growth, home and abroad.

At BellaNaija, we say a BIG thank you to all members of Team Nigeria at the London 2012 Olympics. We know it’s not a … in fact, no be small tin. We wish them only the best in the rest of the games and in their future endeavors.

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website atoke.com for more information.

31 Comments

  1. Nelo

    August 7, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    i love this write up. Thanks for this Atoke and Bella Naija. I am equally proud of this team. Wish them all the best.

    • Toyosi

      August 8, 2012 at 9:32 am

      Awww this is a “feel good” post and I FEEL GOOD!! Thanks for this different perspective. D’Tigers did an amazing job and their coach was fantastic plus some of those boys are hawt… ok I’m going off point.

  2. MsAde

    August 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Good job guys! Every loss is a learning experience. This loss will only make our team stronger. Don’t mind everyone talking rubbish about how badly we loss, at least we qualified. I’m from Canada and Canadian men did not even qualify and the Canadian girls loss badly as well to the American women. I’m a proud Nigerian. The issue with our athletes is not that they are not good, but the nigerian gov is not spending enough money to properly train them (that’s a whole other issue).

  3. Bisi BusyBee!

    August 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    very inspiring writeup. One can relate it to business. whether you fall several times, you will surely rise again. FOCUS,PERSISTENCE and DETERMINATION is key!!! Kudos to D’Tigers. http://www.busybeeeventsng.com

  4. Ndidi

    August 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Hear! Hear!!!!!

  5. Chattyzee

    August 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Cheers to Team Nigeria!!! ****raises a glass of fanta***
    http://dprodigalchild.wordpress.com/

  6. natty

    August 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Wow! I didn’t know all this, all those African countries that were mocking us, I’m pretty sure they don’t have the balls to gather a team in a month

  7. reena

    August 7, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Best writeup ever am proudly #teamnigeria

  8. Toi

    August 7, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    @Natty
    Do you remember the days when we used to go crazy if any African Nation participated in international event? Cameroon V England springs to mind, we were all jumping and shouting for Cameroon to win. Before that it was Brazil we’d all cheer to win. The response of Africans to the Nigeria men’s basketball team against America was pretty shameful. Africa is a disgrace. Once, i would have been cheering the African representative in the Olympics but now i have not watched one game. From now on Nigeria is the only thing that interest me in Africa.

  9. Brittle Paper

    August 7, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Lovely.

  10. Bewi

    August 8, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Yes we lost, but we were still represented at this game.. #teamnigeriaforlife

  11. NNENNE

    August 8, 2012 at 12:38 am

    I admire and salute the spirit of team Naija.”We fall down but we get up….”

  12. habba!

    August 8, 2012 at 2:28 am

    call a spade a spade! if you are not good at something dont go out there and look like an idiot and make us the punch line for years to come

  13. Tunmi

    August 8, 2012 at 5:24 am

    A month to prepare for the Olympics? I applaud the Nigerian basketball team but let’s call a spade a spade, this was atrocious. I’ll let it go by because it’s their debut at the Olympics but what happens four years from now. Will the same thing happen? Who gets a team together in a month before the Olympics?! I commend the players for going all the way but their performance was oh so bad.

    • babygirl

      August 8, 2012 at 7:06 am

      Tunmi, i trust that you will be playing at the next olympics, if u are not,shhhhhhhhhhhh

  14. olayinka

    August 8, 2012 at 6:53 am

    Am really proud of this boys may God continue to bless them

  15. Theodora

    August 8, 2012 at 8:52 am

    i really dont care what anyone says or all the joke made about the team, these men gave their best and i am proud of them, i admire and salute them…great write up bella….And welldone D TIGERS…….

  16. For real?

    August 8, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Us Nigerians love to give ourselves a pat on the back and settle for mediocrity. why was the team put together in a month? Were the Olympic games announced just a month before? Were we not aware that there was a possibility of meeting big teams like the USA. I totally agree with habba and say lets call a spade a spade! how do u go into an international competition with just a month’s preparation. There’s no magic that could be performed, either you put in sweat and hard work into something or u forget it! and to the comment about Nigerians supporting other African teams in the past, I wonder what century that was in because Nigerians have ALWAYS been known to look down on our African brothers! i hate stupid sentiments when there were other routes to have been taken! such is the Nigerian attitude.

  17. Uchechi

    August 8, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Despite the score margin, I was very impressed with their performance. I’m sure they will do better in subsequent tournaments. Well done D’Tigers!!

  18. Eugenia

    August 8, 2012 at 10:17 am

    my loyalty goes to basketball guys. i love d team spirit in them. i know they will go places in future. Am proud of them, and i wish them d best.also to coach Bakare thanks for believing in them.

  19. Desire

    August 8, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Big ups to D’Tiger. They had the guts to try and the perseverance to keep going on despite the abuses and taunts they suffered so kudos to them. If u were not part of the team just let them be and stop condemning them cos u cant feel the humiliation more than they did. Lets hope the Government support them next time and the will keep getting better.

  20. Bunmi

    August 8, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Thank you so much for posting this article. I love it and I am proud to be a Naija omo

  21. sparkles

    August 8, 2012 at 10:47 am

    if you think abt it, these USA players have played almost ALL their lives and dis is what they do. Our boys even tried to score as much as they did. #goteamnaija!!!

  22. Princess of Zion

    August 8, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Being beaten by the best is no shame at all! They did very well!

    http://www.princessofzion.wordpress.com

  23. Chizo

    August 8, 2012 at 11:52 am

    …thank you. I learnt to look on the positive side of life.

  24. wale

    August 8, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    This team D’Tigers will shock the world come 2016,

  25. Omolola

    August 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks Atoke for this piece, I agree wiv u, I jst wish other Nigerians r not soo short-sighted

  26. Theodora

    August 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    i am proud of these my fellow country men………welldone D TIGERS

  27. uniquelyisi

    August 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I would rather go for the positives. This write up is really inspiring. While i do not subscribe to the hazy preparation for an international event such as the Olympics, i do however applaud their spirit in bracing up despite all odds.

    The typical Nigerian mindset is ‘dependent’ on perfect situation & solution but D’tigers showed us that when there is a will, there is a way. There’s so much to take from the D’tigers and for me it is having the mindset to win and striving to win not forgetting the God-factor.
    Thank you team Naija!

  28. Prince Simeon

    August 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    i am reading this with tears rolling down my cheeks…We Nigerians should learn how to see optimism even in the most difficult situations. Bella, God bless you and may people celebrate you as you have done with others.

  29. taiwo

    August 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    team naija 4 life, love u guys and you worked very hard even though the one month pratice thing threw me off you did a very good job and am proud of you guys, all the best to you. just make sure u pratice well for the next olympics lol love u guys.

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