Flying Eagles, Falconets, other team Nigerian athletes on parade as 2019 African Games kick-off

After recent impressive showings including being crowned as African champions along with Super Falcons at the last Women’s Africa Cup of Nations Ghana 2018, goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie would possibly be Nigeria’s talisman as the 12th African Games women’s football tournament in Morocco holds between 16 and 29 August in Rabat, Morocco. 

The Nigerian girls won Gold at the inaugural then All African Games women’s football tournament on home soil in 2003 and easily defended their crown four years later in Algiers. But the West Africans failed to qualify for the following continental showpiece held in Maputo in 2011 before finishing fourth four years ago in Brazzaville. 

“I’m so happy to be part of this team going to the African Games in Morocco,” Nnadozie who had previously represented Nigeria at all levels bar the Olympic Women’s Football Tournament told  

“It has been a privilege to have represented Nigeria at the U-17, U-20 and senior level with the Super Falcons but I’m also happy to be included in this team going to compete at the African Games; this is going to be a new experience for me.”

For the women’s football tournament at Morocco 2019, all the eight teams according to the rules and regulations by CAF will be represented by their U-20 women’s sides instead of the seniors hence the inclusion of experienced 18-year-old Nnadozie would give Nigeria a head start.

“We have a good team and an experienced manager in coach Chris Danjuma but at the same time we need luck to win the competition in Morocco,” noted Nnadozie who made history as the youngest ever player goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet after helping Nigeria beat Korea Republic during the recently FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019.

 “We did well at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France; though we lost in the Round of 16 to Germany, I’m proud of my teammates and what I achieved personally.”

Nnadozie has been constant like the northern star for Nigeria in recent time and was in the Super Falcons squad that won record ninth AWCON title in Ghana last year.

She was in goal when Nigeria came third at the China Four-Nation Invitational Tournament before France 2019.

Earlier on, she was a fulcrum of the team (Falconets) to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018 where she earned the ‘ Dare to Shine’ player of the award for her outstanding performance against Haiti; as well as being part of the ill-fated team (Flamingoes) that finished bottom of their group at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016. 

“The truth is that I love to win and I’m not happy when I lose matches,” noted Nnadozie who has won three successive Nigeria’s National Women Cup with Rivers Angels of Port Harcourt between 2016 and 2018.

 “I’m really happy with my progress since I joined Rivers Angels in 2016 because it was not easy initially to convince my parents; they felt football was not meant for a girl-child but I have been able to convince them with my achievements at club and national team levels.”

Meanwhile, Nigerian women’s football legend Maureen Mmadu believes Nnadozie’s exposure and experience is a plus to the coach Danjuma-led side as the Falconets challenge for the Gold at Morocco 2019.

“Chiamaka is tall and strong but apart from her physique, she is very confident of herself when she is on the goalpost,” explained coach Mmadu who made more than 100 appearances for the Super Falcons during her heyday.

“She did well at the recently concluded FIFA Women’s World Cup in France; she has great qualities and she is very hungry for success and I think her experience would help the U-20 team succeed at the All Africa Games in Morocco.”

Incidentally, Nnadozie and teammates already have their work cut out in the African Games women’s football tournament since the Falconets are pooled together along with perennial rivals South Africa, Cameroon and Zambia in Group B while the hosts Morocco are in Group A along with Mali, Algeria and Equatorial Guinea. 

“We have to go out and show we are hungry to win in Morocco “reiterated Nnadozie, who is the last born in a family with five other siblings.

“The good thing is that we are like a family in this team and this gives me confidence that we can succeed in Morocco.”

In the meantime, hosts Morocco will kick off their campaign against Algeria at Stade Boubker Ammar in Sale while Mali will face Equatorial Guinea in the other Group A’s fixture at the same venue on 17th August. 

In Group B, Cameroon will start off against Zambia while Nigeria face rivals South Africa with both matches slated for 18th August at Stade Academie Mohamed VI.

The African Games is a multi-sport contest geared towards advancing top-class African Sports and to foster cultural exchanges between the Member States of the African Union.

462 athletes and officials will represent Nigeria at the Games scheduled to end by August 31st.

Team Nigeria finished second in the last edition of the Games in Congo Brazzaville in 2015.

First organised in 1965 in Brazzaville, the 12th African Games will hold in seven Moroccan cities: Casablanca, Rabat, Sale, Temara, Khémisset, Mohammedia and El Jadida.

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