The Super Falcons, for the second time in a row, will not be at the Olympic Games no thanks to their 2-1 loss to Equatorial Guinea in Bata on Sunday. The team suffered the same fate during the qualifiers for the London 2012 Olympic when they lost to Cameroon in a penalty shootout.
Not a few people saw this coming especially after the team’s poor performance at the Women’s World Cup in Canada where they finished bottom of their group.
It is believed in some quarters that the death of Gracious Ajujobi, media officer of the team, few days to the first leg clash against Equatorial could be attributed to their ouster. But truth must be told, the Falcons are fast losing their status as the strongest team in Africa, as the gap between them and the other teams is now just the amount of Africa Women Championships they’ve won.
But all hope is not yet lost. It is believed that certain things just need to be put in place for the team to start firing again. In this piece, completesportsnigeria.com’s JAMES AGBEREBI, outlines FIVE important steps on how the Falcons can get back to reckoning.
FULL COMMITTMENT ON THE PART OF THE NIGERIA FOOTBALL FEDERATION
If there is one area which the Nigeria Football Federation have been found wanting as it concerns the Falcons, it is the area of committing 100 per cent to the cause of the team. For sometime now, the Falcons have not really got the needed attention from the football authorities except when they are preparing for major tournaments. And to think that the players always show committment in every assignment should be enough reason for the NFF to start appraoching things differently.
HIRING A FOREIGN COACH
Without doubt, the Falcons have what it takes to go toe-to-toe against any of the top teams in world football. In the past, it was always a matter of how many goals the Falcons would concede against teams like USA, Germany, Norway, China. But now, these teams have to toil before getting anything against the Falcons. Nothing stops the Falcons from edging these teams; what they need is a sound foreign coach, either a male or a female, with sound technical ability, who will input in them that tactical and organizational discipline which has been lacking. Watching the team at the last World Cup, it wasn’t as if they couldn’t match any of their opponents, they just lacked these basic aspect of the game which these teams possess.
PLAYING TOP GRADE A FRIENDLY GAMES
Prior to the start of the last World Cup, the Falcons only played a handful of friendly games. Most of these games were against Academy boys and less fancied female sides. The only top friendly game they played was against the hosts of the last World Cup, Canada, which ended in a 0-0 draw. This is not good enough for a team that have the ambition of doing well at a major tournament like the World Cup.
The NFF don’t have to wait for like one month to a tournament before they start to act. Just like the Super Eagles, nothing stops them from arranging friendly games during FIFA free days, against top women’s teams. This is one way in which new players can be identified and also have an idea of what to expect against these teams in tournaments.
INJECTION OF YOUNGER PLAYERS
It is evident that most players in the Falcons have past their prime. The likes of Precious Dede, Onome Ebi, Perpetual Nkwocha, have all paid their dues, and it is time for them to take a bow and allow younger players to come on board. And the players who represent that new generation of young players who the team should be built around include the likes of Asisat Oshoala, Courtney Dike, Desire Oparanozie, Ngozi Okobi and Francesca Ordega. These are players who have a lot of years ahead of them in the game. So the earlier more young players who will form a strong chemistry among themselves and take the game to the next level are being given the chance, the better for the game in Nigeria.
RESTRUCTURING OF THE WOMEN’S LEAGUE
Before the thought of going abroad to play professional football, most of the Falcons best players plied their trades in the local leagues. Clubs like Jegede Babes, Pelican Stars, Ufuoma Babes, Omidiran Babes, and the rest, used to provide the women’s national team with the best players who always went on to do the country proud. Players like Mercy Akide, Florence Omagbemi, Ann Chiejine, Eucharia Uche, Nkiru Okosieme all featured for some of the best teams in the country. But unfortunately, the lip service on the part of the NFF on the women’s league is beginning to tell on the team. Walk overs and rescheduled games are the order of the day in the league now.
But if the league can get sponsors, then we will see the best of Nigerian women’s football, and also go back to the good old days.