Nigeria Rugby–The Sleeping Giant of Africa
25 March 2013
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I was watching the Hong Kong 7s at the weekend and it served to demonstrate what could have been for Nigeria Rugby. At the Morocco 7s in September last year an unexpected 12-15 defeat to Madagascar ultimately cost the National side a place at Hong Kong as well as a qualification berth at the Rugby Sevens World Cup in Moscow in June. The loss meant that Nigeria faced Zimbabwe in the semi-finals going down 14-19 rather than play Tunisia against who would have struggled to contain the bigger and faster Nigerian players. You can read in more detail what happened by reading my articles Fourteen minutes from Moscow and Small Margins.
At Hong Kong, Tunisia were overwhelmed but Zimbabwe went on to win the qualification final which means they will be at the London Sevens competing for a place as a core team in the Sevens World Series next season. With Nigeria being so close to putting themselves on the Rugby map perhaps now is the time to push for the game to get the recognition it deserves in a country of 170 million people, more than any other in Africa.
I am typing this whilst sitting at Heathrow Terminal Four waiting to board a flight to Lagos where I will be attending a conference for all the stakeholders in Rugby in Nigeria. It is a golden opportunity to unite the game and unlock the enormous potential in the country to become a rugby nation that can compete on the world stage.
When Zimbabwe collected their trophy at the Hong Kong 7s the commentator said that Zimbabwe could be the next Kenya. With some unity, belief and funding it could be Nigeria.