By PAUL BASSEY:
Today, an elated President Goodluck Jonathan will, true to tradition receive and honour the Super Falcons who last Saturday in Windhoek, Namibia, made the nation proud by winning for a record 7th time, the Africa Women Championship, AWC.
As a Nigerian, I was elated sitting there at the Sam Nujoma Stadium as the girls strutted their stuff…..
Though I knew that we were going to win, I had some doubts when the team list was distributed and I saw the Camerounians fielding EIGHT foreign based professionals in the starting line up, to our country’s three (Onome Ebi, Desire Oparanozie and Francisca Ordega).
Did I say eight? If you add Bou Cathy who plays for Bayelsa Queens, then the Cameroonians had NINE professionals in their starting eleven (Four from France, two from Romania, two from Sweden and one from Nigeria). When the game started I had no choice but pay tribute to a Women league back home that is not sponsored or well run, neglected and despised!
The high points of the match to me were the two goals. The training ground text-book delivery of Oparanozie after hard working Ordega and Oshoala had sold dummies to the opposition and the near perfect combination between Ordega and Oshoala that ended with the Player of the tournament ( Oshaola) sneaking behind the Cameroonian defence to score. A typical predator’s goal, if you ask me.
Those moments notwhistanding, I take away from Namibia, off the field lessons in patriotism, team spirit, focus and the will to succeed. I bring back to Nigeria the story of a team that was not paid allowances or bonuses, yet they persevered, refused to be distracted and went on to triumph.
Yes I know the work the technical crew led by Coach Edward Okon and the leader of delegation, Mrs Dilichukwu Onyedinma put in to keep them focused and all credit must go to them.The story of the unpaid salaries of Coach Okon is another story. I visited him in the Economy class of the aircraft, crammed for space with his girls…. All hail Super Eagles.
Does that not remind you of Brazil? How a bunch of greedy players and their handlers held us to ransom? Refused to train and insisted that until “their monies” were paid they were not going to kick a ball? Such was the humiliation on world stage as they spent the night and the wee hours of the morning sharing their booty, thereby sacrificing a key second round match!
It was also in Windhoek I was told that the parents of Courtney Dike, one of the girls we took to the FIFA U-20 Women’s Championship in Canada (Scorer of the competition’s historic fastest goal) insisted that their daughter should not receive a dime in the form of allowance or bonus! For them playing for Nigeria was enough honour that should not be paid for.
The first question I asked them was whether the Sports Minister was aware (the sports minister told me he was aware and was interested in what happened to her unspent bonus and the monetary award given by Mr President, since she had gone back to school in Oklahoma USA, and was not physically around to collect it).
Was President Jonathan told when he was honouring the girls? In a country where we are fast running short of heroes Mr Dike deserves a national honour for inculcating in his daughter the lasting spirit of patriotism……what you can do for your country!
On Monday, NFF President, Amaju Pinnick led the way when he checked them into the prestigious Eko Hotel. The girls were shocked. Before now, it was customary to herd them into town in a truck and throw them into a nondescript hotel. Today, the President that I know, their reward will start flowing, including all the areas of bonuses and allowances owed.
Well done dear girls, well done.