Nigeria will compete in the biennial Paralympic-style Invictus Games founded by Britain’s Prince Harry for military personnel injured in service, the foundation said Thursday.
Nigeria will become Africa’s first participant in the games and will compete in a series of adaptive sports along with 21 other nations in the German city of Düsseldorf, which expects over 500 competitors for the sixth edition of the weeklong sporting event.
The West African nation was inducted into the Invictus Community of Nations last year, alongside Colombia and Israel.
All three countries will make their debut in this year’s sporting competition.
Captain of Team Nigeria, Corporal Effiom Antigha, told CNN he was excited to participate in the September games.
“I feel very happy because, before now, I didn’t think I could engage myself in any of these sporting activities.”
“The Invictus Foundation has helped develop me physically and mentally,” added 30-year-old Antigha, who said he had initially been depressed after getting injured.
“Before joining Invictus, I had never heard of sitting volleyball. When I saw that I could engage in the sport without having to stress my limbs, I felt very great. Since then, my spirit has been high,” he said.
‘I can now take myself to the gym for upper body work. That’s something I haven’t done since I got injured.”
Antigha, who fractured his kneecap during a novelty football game organized by an army unit in 2019, said he was looking forward to meeting other injured servicemen from other countries.
“I want to hear their stories and also compete with them,” he told CNN.
Team manager for the Nigerian contingent, Bobby Ojeh, told CNN the country was allotted 10 competing slots and selection for the members of the team had begun.
“The 10 will be participating in different sports,” said Ojeh, who also stated that the Nigerian team was hoping to compete in categories such as wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, powerlifting, and rowing.
“We have professional coaches training our men in these sports,” he further said, adding that participants will attend the games with their friends and family.
Participants will be picked from a pool of 35 injured soldiers that have been supported by the charity.
Started in 2014, the Invictus Games, which supports the rehabilitation of injured soldiers, had previously been hosted by the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands.
Winners and runners-up of sporting categories at the Invictus Games are given medals, but organizers say the event is not about winning medals, but about helping the veterans on their road to recovery.
Chief executive of the Invictus Games Foundation, Dominic Reid OBE, said in a press statement he was “delighted” that Nigeria has been invited to participate in the games.
“Such was the impact of the opportunities we provide, including within Nigeria, and the support of senior military stakeholders, that we felt the team there were ready and well-prepared for joining an Invictus Games,” he added.
Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, said Invictus’ sports for recovery programs were having an impact on injured and sick military personnel in the country.
“Since joining the Invictus Community of Nations, we have seen the impact that sports for recovery has already begun to have on those who have been injured or fallen ill whilst serving, and on those around them.”