Wanted… A ‘Campaign Manager’ For Super Falcons
THE African Women Championship (AWC) is purely an African affair, but Nicholas Bruce, a journalist with Fox Sports in the United States of America was among those that covered the last edition of the championship held in Windhoek, Namibia in October last year.
From the beginning of the championship till the end, Bruce was busy asking questions about the Super Falcons.
“I am here on a mission for my country’s national team,” Bruce confided in The Guardian one evening at the Sam Nujoma Stadium Media Centre. “The USA Women team may likely be in the same group with your team (Super Falcons) in Canada 2015 FIFA World Cup and I am here to examine the strength of the three African countries that will participate in the World Cup.
“We are more concerned about your team, (Super Falcons) because the players appear to be more physical. They are the most experienced side in Africa and I see them winning this AWC. We (USA) don’t want to take chances at the World Cup in Canada. That is the reason I am here to look at the teams,” Bruce said.
True to Bruce’s prediction, the Falcons won the AWC, beating the Lionesses of Cameroun for their record seventh title.
Now, the Super Falcons have been drawn in Group D of the Canada 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup alongside USA, Australia and Sweden and Bruce is worried.
In his mail to The Guardian during the week, Bruce asked repeatedly about the preparations of the Super Falcons for the World Cup.
He wrote: “This is your friend, Nicholas Bruce, the journalist with Fox Sports in the United States. We met last year in Namibia at the African Women’s Championship. What is the program of the Nigerian women’s team for the World Cup? Do they have any friendly matches scheduled in preparation for the Championship? And for training, where and when are the players meeting? Any information on the team’s program and calendar between now and traveling to Canada is helpful.”
Bruce, like many soccer fans in the United States, has every reasons to be inquisitive about their opponents in the group stage ahead Canada 2015 World Cup.
At the last edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup held in Germany in 2011, USA, which is considered a major power in women football, received a big shock in the final, when they were beaten by Japan on penalties after a 2-2 draw at regulation time.
Before that final in Germany 2011, Japan had never reached the finals of a major world competition. The match was the third between the two countries in World Cup. The United States beat Japan 3–0 in the Group stage during the maiden edition at China ‘91, and won 4–0 in the quarterfinal at Sweden ‘95. Going into that final in 2011, the USA had never lost to Japan, with 22 wins and 3 draws.
The defeat was so painful to the Americans because it halted their dream of becoming the first team to win a third FIFA Women World Cup, having won in 1991 and 1999.
Looking at the Group, USA and Sweden are the teams to beat.
Like the Super Falcons, Sweden have qualified for every FIFA Women’s World Cup so far. Their greatest success was at USA 2003, where they finished runners-up after falling 1-2 to Germany through a golden goal in a thrilling final.
On its part, Australia has featured at the FIFA Women’s World Cup on five occasions.
At the 2007 edition held in China, the Falcons led by late coach Effiom Ntiero gave USA a big fight in their last group match played in Shanghai. The Falcons narrowly lost 0-1.
The Canada 2015 World Cup presents another platform for both teams, but there seems to be discordant tunes from players, which if not promptly treated, might snowball into the team’s preparations for the Mundial.
After the Falcons won their seventh African Nations Cup title in Namibia last October, the team was promised cash reward by the Presidency immediately on arrival.
But like the case with some other female teams after doing the nation proud in international competitions, players and officials of the Super Falcons have been waiting endlessly for their reward.
At the last Glo-CAF Award ceremony in Lagos, some Super Falcons’ players, who accompanied Asisat Oshoala to receive her award as African Player of the Year, lamented the delay by the Presidency to reward them as ‘promised.’
One of them, a defender, could not hide her anger in a chat with The Guardian: “I don’t know why the Federal Fovernment always like to treat us this way. We won a Nations Cup for the seventh time and it had been promises upon promises from the Presidency. If it were the men (both junior and senior), they would quickly roll out the red carpet and shower cash on them. This attitude of the government is capable of demoralizing us at the 2015 World Cup.
“We have won more laurels for Nigeria than the men. Look at the Super Eagles failing to qualify for the 2015 African Nations Cup. We won it in Namibia and nobody is showing any form of appreciation to us. It is unfair,” the player said.
The situation is said to be giving officials of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) serious concern. A top official of the NFF told The Guardian during the week that they were worried that majority of the players might not be in right frame of mind concerning preparation for the World Cup, since the promise made to them for winning the 2014 AWC are yet to be fulfilled.
However, another NFF official hinted during the week that the Presidency might have been carried away by the on-going electioneering campaign.
“I don’t think anybody in the Presidency will be ready to listen to suggestions regarding the hosting of Super Falcons for winning the has dragged till this moment. We are worried even more than the players,” the NFF official said.