Monday, 25th September 2023

Falconets: One failure too many for Nigerian football

By Gowon Akpodonor
18 August 2018   |   4:24 am
Again, another Nigerian national football team has barely made up the number at the FIFA’s competition it had dominated in the past.The quarterfinal exit by the Falconets at the on-going France 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is not going down well with many Nigerian football lovers.

Falconets’ Rasheedat Ajibade holds the ball after scoring from the spot in their second group match against Haiti at the on-going France 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. Nigeria crashed out in the quarterfinal against Spain on Thursday

Again, another Nigerian national football team has barely made up the number at the FIFA’s competition it had dominated in the past.The quarterfinal exit by the Falconets at the on-going France 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is not going down well with many Nigerian football lovers.On two occasions, the Falconets had reached the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2010 and 2014, and many were looking forward to seeing them at least among the last four in France.

But all hopes and expectations of Nigerians came crashing on Thursday, when the Christopher Danjuma-led team put all foots wrong in their quarterfinal match against Spain, a team they defeated two years ago in Pupa New Guinea.

Despite having the requisite talents, desire, and passion, Nigerian footballing fortunes have nose-dived in the last four years tenure of Amaju Pinnick. From the Super Eagles to the Flying Eagles, Golden Eaglets, Flamingoes and now the Falconets, it has been harvest of poor results since 2014, when Pinnick took over the mantle of leadership at the Glasshouse.

Former handler of the National U-17 team, Golden Eaglets, and Super Falcons, Coach Godwin Izilien, is sad over the series of poor outings by the Nigerian football teams. He is putting the blame of Falconets’ poor performance at France 2018 on the doorstep of the NFF saying: “I cried out long ago that this current NFF board is out to destroy our football. How can you give coaching jobs to people who don’t have what it takes to deliver? There is no female football club in the North, yet this NFF board keeps appointing coaches from that region to head our women football teams. I am not a tribal person, but this is what you get when you give posts to people who don’t deserve it.

“I watched all the matches the Falconets played in France, and they were shambolic. The girls were not purposeful in all their games because there was no sign of technical input from the bench. Their first match against Germany was an apology. They were just lucky against Haiti and China. It is time we call a spade a spade. This Pinnick-led NFF board is killing our joy,” Izilien stated.

In February this year, Nigeria U-17 women’s team, Flamingoes, could not even qualify from Africa for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay. Coach Bala Nikyu had failed with the team at two previous tournaments, including the Jordan 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, where his side crashed out in the first round without scoring a goal. The decision by the Pinnick-led NFF board to re-appoint Bala, as head coach of the Flamingoes in 2018 proved so costly, as he lost the ticket to Cameroun.

Many Nigerian football fans are yet to overcome the poor performance of the Super Eagles at Russia 2018 World Cup. With all the ongoing political mischiefs, economic austerity measures, and growing insecurity in the country, many Nigerians look up to the various national football teams for happiness. But it has been series of disappointments.

While some fans have put the blame on incompetent leadership, others say the free fall of Nigerian football was as a result of inefficient administration, inappropriate strategy, corrupt practices, indiscipline, and absence of a well-articulated generally acceptable plans. 
Before the Pinnick-led board came on board in September 2014, the nation’s football was on a steady rise.

The previous board led by Aminu Maigari won virtually everything, including the 2013 African Nations Cup title by the Super Eagles in South Africa, as well as the Golden Eaglets’ victory at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.The national U-20 team, Flying Eagles and all the three female national teams were not left out of the victory dance then.

However, the Pinnick-led NFF board could not replicate the successes it met in 2014. After the late Stephen Keshi-led Super Eagles captured the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa in 2013, many football lovers across the continent were looking up to Nigeria to dominate the scene even up to the 2015 AFCON held in Equatorial Guinea. It never happened, as the Eagles failed to defend their Nations Cup title. The team could not also make it to the 2017 edition of the African Nations Cup in Gabon 2017, a failure that triggered call for the impeachment of Pinnick-led board. The Eagles are on the verge of not qualifying for Cameroun 2019, after losing 0-2 at home in their last match against South Africa.

The poor feat of the Eagles has since spread to the junior teams, as the Golden Eaglets and Flying Eagles failed to qualify from Africa.Like the Eagles, the nation’s U-17 team also failed to defend their world title in India, a tournament the team won at the United Arabs Emirates under the Maigari’s administration. The Golden Eaglets were knocked out by a relatively unknown Menas of Niger Republic 3-1 in Niamey (3-2 on aggregate) in the qualifying race for Africa U-17 Cup of Nations.

A similar fate befell the U-20 national team, who could not qualify from Africa for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea.The female senior national team, Super Falcons, who won the first trophy under the Pinnick-led board in 2014, failed to qualify for Rio 2016 Olympics Games. That was after the team had its worst performance in Africa, the Congo 2015 All African Games, where it crashed out at the group stage.

Though, the Falcons were able to bounce back two years later, winning the AFCON title at Cameroun 2016. But as if the Pinnick-led NFF board is operating under a spell, the coach who led the Super Falcons to win the AWC in Cameroun, Florence Omagbemi, was refused re-appointment after her contract expired, yet coaches who failed to perform in their assignment got their job back.