Despite the good fortunes which smiled on Nigeria’s senior male basketball team to grab qualification for the ongoing London 2012, the glory seeking lads have not allowed the success to enter their heads.
Head Coach of the team, Ayo Bakare, Saturday admitted here that the D’Tigers will be going into Sunday’s opening game against African champions, Tunisia, as the underdogs.
Bakare, who spoke after his team defeated an all-star selected side 69-66, said the Tunisians are higher seeded as champions and that fact must be respected.
He said: “Even if we had beaten the whole world in Venezuela to qualify, the fact remains we got through after a second chance. Is that what you people call re-sit in exams. On Sunday the Tunisians will be introduced as African champions and that is key.
“We are also from Africa and so if they are champions what adjective will go for us that will be stronger than champions or gold medallists in any competition?
“And is why I insist that we are the underdogs when we are placed side by side because we were also in that competition that gave them the title.”
At Madagascar 20011 where the African championship held, Nigeria and Tunisia could not play directly against each other as Nigeria lost to Angola in the semi-finals while Tunisia defeated Cameroon to produce a final duel between Angola and Tunisia. The last time they met each other at Morocco 2003, Nigeria defeated them in the classification match to finish fifth.
But despite the status of the North Africans as African champions, the international basketball community rate Nigeria above them based on their overall records and the exposure of players both sides parade.
This is the first time Tunisia is representing the continent at a world meet whereas Nigerian Tigers were in Greece ’98 and Japan 2006 World Championships.
But Sunday, both sides are likely to start on a cautious note as they appear playing on a level field this time irrespective of current rating or past records. Both sides desperately need this particular match to have any hope for the next round.