2019 was the year of triumphs, comebacks, introductions, and goodbyes. Voice of Nigeria is looking back at its favourite sports moments over the past 12 months.
Here are the 10 moments that stood out the most:
D’Tigress of Nigeria makes history at Africa Women’s Basketball Championship
The 2019 Africa Women’s Basketball Championship was held in Senegal. This year’s event marked Nigeria’s 12th appearance in the continental showpiece, and D’Tigress made sure it ended with a bang, beating Senegal in the finals to win the title.
The eight-day competition saw 12 teams slug it out on the basketball court. And having won the 2017 edition in Mali, Nigeria was definitely the team to beat, and the team showed class by pulling off a five-game unbeaten run.
At the finals, Senegal threatened that perfect run by giving Nigeria their toughest competition yet. Starting in the third quarter of the game, the 11-time winners managed to equalize with Nigeria, but the D’Tigress pulled off a 60-55 scoreline at the end.
By winning the title, Nigeria passed the first test for qualification for the Women’s Basketball Tournament at the 2020 Olympics. The country has also qualified for the 2022 Women’s Basketball World Cup, and we are beyond proud.
Algeria wins Africa Cup of Nations
In July, Algeria’s national football team ended a 29-year dry spell to triumph at the Africa Cup of Nations for a second time.
The North African side, led by former Algerian international player Djamel Belmadi, beat Senegal 1-0 in the final in Egypt’s capital, Cairo.
After going behind, Senegal dominated for the remainder of the match but was unable to find an equalising goal. Midway through the second half, it looked as though Senegal had been handed a lifeline after referee Alioum Alioum awarded a penalty for handball.
However, after being advised by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to review the incident on the pitch side monitor, Alioum overturned his original decision. Algeria’s goal came from its one and only shot of the game, making it an incredible feat.
Tiger Woods wins first major golf tournament in 11 years
Tiger Woods has dominated the golf landscape for years, winning multiple tournaments and having that iconic fist pump.
With multiple injuries getting in the way, Woods struggled on the greens and took years to get back on track. That would all change in 2019.
Woods won at The Masters, which would be his first major golf tournament victory in 11 years. He has won 15 major tournaments, which ranks second all-time.
South Africa wins the 2019 Rugby World Cup
There was always going to be a sense of history in the air for the Springboks, as they climbed the podium in Yokohama and lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in front of a roaring crowd.
South Africa won their third Rugby World Cup crown by beating favourites England 32-12 in the Final. They equalled New Zealand’s record for most tournament wins, and they also became the first side to be crowned champions after earlier losing a pool match.
After South Africa defeated England, it was thrilling to watch South Africa’s first black captain, Siya Kolisi, lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
Liverpool overturns a 3-Goal Champions League deficit against Barcelona
In retrospect, the most surprising thing might have been that Barcelona were up 3-0 in the tie against Liverpool at the Nou Camp, but little did Barcelona know that Liverpool had other plans in the return leg at Anfield.
Talismanic striker Mohamed Salah was out for Liverpool with an injury. Unlike Salah, Barcelona’s talisman Messi was playing. And no club had overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit in the Champions League semis since Barcelona did it to Gothenburg 33 years ago.
A few minutes into the thrilling encounter, Divock Origi opened the scoring from close range in the seventh minute. Georginio Wijnaldum added two more after the break, and sent Liverpool fans into a frenzy. It was total football coming from Liverpool.
And then the climax of the game came from a quickly taken corner in the 79th minute, Origi’s magic touch put the hosts up 4-0 sending Anfield in euphoria. The moment came with the face-tingling certainty that you had just witnessed the impossible, which is one of the best feelings sports can give you.
The Anfield crowd were singing like thunder. Liverpool went on to bring another UEFA Champions League trophy to Anfield — after beating fellow English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 on June 1 — in the first all-English final since 2008.
The Barcelona result at Anfield spurred Liverpool on to claim the most prestigious trophy in club football. It was the sixth Champions League trophy for Liverpool in their history.
Andy Ruiz Jr. stuns Anthony Joshua and the boxing world
Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz Jr. was a professional boxing match between the then undefeated, unified WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, against the heavyweight challenger Andy Ruiz Jr.
It took place on June 1, 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, U.S. Joshua was originally scheduled to face undefeated WBA no. 2 and WBO no. 3 ranked heavyweight Jarrell Miller, who was replaced by Ruiz Jr. after Miller failed three drug tests.
He was replaced by Ruiz, who was the WBA no. 5, WBO no. 11 and IBF no. 14 ranked heavyweight.
After coming in as an 15–1 underdog, in a shocking upset, Ruiz Jr. won the match via technical knockout in the seventh round, ending Joshua’s undefeated record and becoming the new unified heavyweight champion.
The fight is considered one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, drawing comparisons to Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas in 1990 and Lennox Lewis vs. Hasim Rahman in 2001.
Iranian women attend historic football match
For the first time in nearly 40 years, Iranian women were allowed to freely attend a men’s football match in the capital, Tehran.
More than 3,000 female fans watched from a special women-only section in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, as their national men’s team beat Cambodia 14-0 in a World Cup qualifying match.
The doors were opened a month after the death of Iranian female football fan Sahar Khodayari, dubbed “Blue Girl” because of the colours of the club she supported.
The 29-year-old died of her wounds after setting herself on fire outside a Tehran court, upon learning she could be imprisoned for attempting to sneak into a stadium disguised as a man.
Djokovic outlasts Federer in classic Wimbledon final
What would tennis fans expect when two of the worlds best, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, get together for a Wimbledon final? A memorable match, certainly, but one that lasted four hours and 57 minutes on July 14.
In one of the most memorable moments in the history of tennis, top-seeded Djokovic defeated No. 2 Federer 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12, to defend his Wimbledon title, in which he came back from being down at championship point twice in the match.
Toronto Raptors wins historic NBA Title
Under the direction of Masai Ujiri, the Toronto Raptors won their first-ever NBA championship.
Born to a Nigerian father and Kenyan mother, Ujiri rose to become the President of Basketball Operations at the Toronto Raptors.
The Toronto Raptors had dealt with years of playoff disappointment. Ujiri then fired the head coach and opted to trade some players for superstar Kawhi Leonard and others. The gamble paid off.
Leonard would lead the Raptors to their first NBA championship in franchise history, beating the Golden State Warriors.
US Women’s Soccer team wins second consecutive World Cup
The US women’s team did it once again. They won their second consecutive World Cup and their fourth overall, beating the Netherlands 2-0 in the final on July 7.
Led by Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner Megan Rapinoe (six goals, three assists), the Americans outscored their opponents, 26-3, while winning all seven matches.
Some players on the roster were also part of the 2015 championship team.