After days of intense competition, Egypt emerged the overall winner of the 12th edition of the All African Games in Rabat, Morocco. The competition, which was earlier scheduled to hold in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, was later shifted to Rabat, Morocco. Held from August 19-31, the sports fiesta featured 4,386 athletes from 53 countries and 340 events across 26 sports. Egypt retained its preeminent position in the games with a total haul of 273 medals; 102 gold 98 silver, 73 bronze. Nigeria finished second with 127 medals; 46 gold, 33 silver, 48 bronze; while South Africa finished third with 87 medals (36 gold). Algeria came fourth with 125 medals (33 gold). The host country, Morocco, finished fifth with 109 medals (31 gold) and Tunisia sixth, with 97 medals (26 gold).
We, congratulate the government and people of Morocco for a spectacular hosting. We believe that the Morocco games might have met the expectations of the people. The maiden edition of the All African Games was held in the then Congo Brazzaville in 1965. However, the continental sporting event had been delayed and even postponed as a result of financial problem in the past.
Nevertheless, the competition has got its groove back as Ghana has been named the host of the next edition in 2023. For Nigeria, the preparation for the next edition of the competition must begin now. Nigeria, as the giant of Africa, must be finishing better than second. The potentials are enormous. Our greatest undoing in the games is shoddy preparation.
Nigeria won medals in 13 sports with Weightlifting and Wrestling accounting for half of our entire gold medals haul. Athletics fetched a handsome 10, Badminton 2, Basketball 1, Boxing 1, Football 1, Table tennis 2, Taekwondo 1, Canoeing 4 and Gymnastics 1 and Karate, no gold medal. An analysis of our performance at Morocco 2019 showed that while we were strong in some traditional games like Weightlifting, Wrestling, Athletics and Football, we surrendered our dominance in Boxing and Table tennis.
The success achieved with Canoeing, which fetched the country four gold medals and Gymnastics, one gold medal, demonstrated the immense possibilities for the country if we can expand to other games, like Swimming, Cycling and Fencing. For example, Egypt got 31 of its haul of gold medals from Weightlifting alone. There are many more medals to win in sports, like Swimming Gymnastics, Athletics, Weightlifting and Wrestling. These are some of the games we should prioritise in competitions such as the All African Games and the Olympics.
We should stop putting more emphasis on low-winning medal sports like Football, which can fetch at best two gold medals in the male and female events. The margin of Egypt’s success at the games (108 gold medals) to our haul of 46 gold medals in second position was too wide and unacceptable. We must work hard to bridge the yawning gap or even overtake Egypt.
Let us change the narrative with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the All African Games in Ghana in 2023. Early preparation and adequate funding will surely make the difference. Nigeria’s preparation for Morocco 2019 was reportedly shoddy and haphazard. Funding was inadequate to the extent that some star athletes were unable to hide their frustrations up to the eve of the competition. Some of them even threatened to boycott the games.
The ugly development affected the performance of some of the athletes. A major revelation of the competition was the breaking of the 20-year-old record in 100m hurdles by Tobi Amusan of Nigeria with 12.68 Seconds to overhaul the previous mark of 12.74 Seconds set by a fellow compatriot, Gloria Alozie, at the 1999 games in Johannesburg. We expect such great exploits in subsequent sporting competitions. We hope that the sports authorities would correct the lapses of Morocco 2019 before the next Tokyo Olympics and the Ghana All African Games.