Against all odds, Nigeria’s senior women’s football squad, the Super Falcons, last weekend in Ghana reaffirmed their dominance on African female football when they successfully defended the trophy they won at the 10th edition of the African Women’s Championship staged in Cameroon in 2016.
It is the Super Falcons’ 9th title. They outshot their arch foes, the Bayana Bayana of South Africa by 4 – 3 in a pulsating final decided on penalties.
The Nigerian amazons cast doubts on their ability to defend the trophy they won in Cameroon in 2016 with a shaky start, losing 0 – 1 to the South Africans in the opening match of their group. But in the subsequent outings, the Nigerian ladies fought like wounded Falcons, feasting on their Zambian and Equatorial Guinean counterparts by 4 – 0 and 6 – 0, respectively, to set the stage for a crucial semi-final battle with the Cameroonian Lionesses which was decided 4 – 2 on penalties.
Interestingly, it was Equatorial Guinea that ended the Super Falcons’ monopoly in 2008 at the semifinal stage of the tournament.
The rematch with the Bayana Bayana in the grand finale was a dicey one for the Super Falcons as they struggled to wean themselves from the shock of the defeat in the opening match. The Nigerian ladies paid the South Africans back in their own coins, to successfully defend the trophy by 4 -3 on penalties.
At the end of the hostilities, the new reigning soccer queens as usual emerged as the highest scoring team, netting 10 goals and conceding only one within regulation periods of the tournament.
The Super Falcons have been a formidable force on the continent since the tournament was introduced in 1991. They have also remained the sole representatives of Africa at the global level.
While we celebrate the Super Falcons’ 9th triumph, we should once again look beyond the continent. Nigeria’s supremacy easily crumbles in the face of superior opposition from countries like the United States of America, Denmark, Germany and Norway. It is on record that the Super Falcons have failed to prove to be worthy ambassadors of the continent when it comes to global soccer.
It is a known fact that women’s soccer is not improving in the country due to lack of vibrancy in the female league. Like it obtains in the Super Eagles, the squad is made up of players that ply their trade overseas.
The Super Falcons’ 5-star performances in all previous tournaments till date have not translated into spectacular outings beyond the continent. Nigeria’s monopoly is also a clear indication that African women’s football is not developing. At the international level, all African representatives easily crumble at the group stages. This is a wake-up call for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to think out of the box in turning soccer around on the continent.
The leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) should not be too comfortable celebrating the Super Falcons’ continental dominance. The celebration should become a meaningless ritual to the Nigerian soccer family if we do not excel at the global level.
There is an urgent need to turn the fortunes of women’s soccer around if we are to move beyond the perennial mediocre performance at the international stage. All necessary incentives should be put in place by various owners of female clubs in the country and the state football federations to encourage and stimulate the interest of the upcoming female footballers as well as nudge the game to a higher level.
We congratulate the Super Falcons, their first foreign chief coach, Thomas Dennerby, and his backroom staff on making Nigeria proud once again.
It is also gratifying to note that President Muhammadu Buhari has hailed the performance of the Super Falcons. It is the second time the Super Falcons are winning the trophy under his presidency. The federal government should support the team to do something extraordinary at the 2019 edition of the World Championship billed for France beginning on June 7.
Be that as it may, we advise that the new champions should be exposed to big-time warm-up matches at the right time in preparation for the next Championship. This is necessary in order to improve on our next global outing. It is also hoped that the new foreign coach handling the team would make the difference at the next global competition.