The feat achieved by the Nigeria’s U-19 cricket tea at the just concluded ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup Africa Qualifiers in Namibia has been described as a new dawn for the sport in the country as the Sylvester Okpe-captained side became the first Nigeria team to qualify for a cricket World Cup.
After emerging the overall winner at the six-nation qualifiers held in Namibia following their unbeaten run in the competition, Nigeria became the first team from the continental championship to join top playing cricket nations like Pakistan, South Africa, Afghanistan, Australia, India, England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Zimbabwe and host – South Africa as teams that had already booked their places at the global championship holding in 2020.
An excited President of the Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF), Professor Yahaha Ukwenya described the feat as a new dawn for the sport. “As a President, it is great and incredible and I cannot believe the boys have done this. We trained them to be true Nigerians, tough in character and spirit and not giving to anybody and to tell everybody that we are Africa’s largest nation and some of the toughest human beings from the continent are from Nigeria and they played that way. But we had no idea that they will get this far and by match by match, they fought and came out victorious,” Ukwenya said.
For the coach of the team, Uthe Ogbimi, the feat did not come on a platter of gold. “It has been a long trek coming all the way from last year to qualify from the division two to division one and to come to division one and clear everybody is indeed so massive in our heart. We want to thank the federation for allowing us to go to Zimbabwe for a playing tour against strong opposition and it indeed lifted the game of the players. I think Nigeria should celebrate and corporate bodies should rally round the team to support us for the World Cup.”
An elated Okpe said: “We had a little up and down in the game and we must thank God for the success here in Namibia. This qualification means a lot to me and it is the best moment in my life since I started playing cricket particularly to be part of the first Nigeria team to qualify for any cricket World Cup. We will go back to drawing to check our mistakes and correct it before the World Cup.”