Handball Federation of Nigeria (HFN) president, Samuel Ochehu has sent encouraging words to the country’s team competing at the ongoing IHF Emergent Nations Championship in Georgia, as he praised the resilience of the players in their first two matches.
Although megasportsarena.com reports that the team, which is filled with under-23 players from clubs across the country, lost their first match against the hosts, they bounced back for a draw with Ireland, much to Ochehu’s delight.
The HFN boss is now urging the lads to go all out for victory in their next game, as they battle as greenhorns in Group B, alongside Malta, Bulgaria, Georgia, Ireland and USA.
In their second match, Nigeria and Ireland played out a thrilling 31-31 draw, as the under 23 male team gave a good account of themselves against a well experienced and formidable Irish side.
Obina Ani was awarded best player of the match on the Nigerian side, after Adamalugbe Ola Babatunde got the vote in the first game against Georgia despite the team losing 27-14 to the hosts on day one of the 3rd IHF Emerging Nations Championship on Saturday.
Georgia led Nigeria with eight goals in the first half of the game, then went further to compound their opponents’ woes in the second half with 13 goals margin, against the Africans, who are debutants in the youth competition and have rarely been seen on court outside their continent.
Ochehu, though, believes Nigeria is making giant strides in the sport, as the country has become more regular participants in recent editions of the African Men’s Championship.
They played two editions, in 1979 and 1981, before a 15-year gap that saw them return to the continental championship in 1996 and, two years later, they recorded their best result to date, by finishing fourth, and at the most recent edition, in 2018, they finished 10th.
While the championships missed in the period up till 1998 were due to non-participation, the three Nigeria did not take part in since then were due to failure to qualify.
Such a record is actually a positive sign of the development in the Nigeria men’s handball team – after years of not having a team to field, they have had a steady enough squad to always contest at least the qualification since the mid-1990s.
Another positive hint of Nigeria’s improving position is the results at the African Youth and Junior Championships. At both events in 2018, Nigeria claimed the bronze medal.
In the junior category, this was their first participation since 1984, while it was the first youth continental championship since 2000, such that Ochehu is excited with the strides being enacted in Georgia by Nigeria’s under-23 side.
A report noted: “Given the age restriction of 24 years for the 2019 IHF Emerging Nations Championship, with the exception of three players over this age for all teams, Nigeria’s squad will surely feature some of the talents responsible for securing those youth age category medals.
“The Emerging Nations will certainly be another step up for Nigeria, as they will meet some tough opponents in the preliminary round.”