21st November, 2012
President of Nigeria Basketball Federation, Engineer Toke Aka, tells Bamidele Olowosagba about the state of preparedness of Nigerian players to the upcoming African Scrabble Championship holding in Zambia from tomorrow till 26 November, 2012.
How would you rate Team Nigeria’s chances of retaining the title in Zambia?
Well, I wouldn’t want to tell you categorically that we are going to retain the trophy in Zambia, but I can assure you that our players are in good shape and ready to take on the rest of African players.
Considering that the team only had few days training while in camp in Abuja, do you think that the players are fully prepared for a championship of this magnitude?
To be frank with you, we did not have the kind of preparation we would have hoped for while preparing the team for this trip. Even for the last edition held in Ghana in 2010 we had a better preparation before the tournament.
Having said that, we are still confident that we could still retain the title in Zambia going by the performances of the selected players in tournaments we had not too long ago.
Why is it always difficult for us to prepare our teams for major tourneys, even when these championships are scheduled long time ahead?
Our major challenge has always been funding. For instance, as the defending champions, we were suppose to present 16 players for the tourney in Zambia but we have registered only six players due to lack of funds. Though this is not synonymous to Nigeria, as you are aware that three other teams (Gambia, Uganda and South Sudan) have withdrawn their participation from the championship due to funding problems. But the president of Zambia Scrabble Association, ZSA, Patrick Mpundu has assured us that their withdrawal will have no effect on the staging of the tournament.
How do you arrive on the selected players that would represent Nigeria in Zambia?
Basically, what we normally use to invite players for camping for national assignment like the African Championship is the national ranking. The ranking is based on points accrued at local and international competitions by all the players registered with the NSF. What we have done is to select the top six male players and the best female player in the country to represent the country. I can assure you that Nigeria’s best players would play for the country in Zambia.
Which team do you think would likely pose the stiffest challenge to Team Nigeria’s title bid in Zambia?
In scrabble you cannot underrate any team because it could take a tile to change a game. Having said that, I think we would be wary of South Africa and the Kenyan team, especially their player that did well in Nigeria when he came for the Godswil Akpabio Classic.