Nigeria’s football community mourns as coach Ismaila Mabo ‘bows out’
• NFF, IMC, Lalung, Omagbemi, others eulogises late coach
Nigeria’s football community was thrown into mourning, yesterday, following the news of the demise of former Green Eagles defender and Super Falcons coach, Ismaila Mabo.
Mabo, who died at the age of 80, led the senior women national team, the Super Falcons, to the quarterfinal at USA ’99 FIFA World Cup, the best performance by any Nigerian senior team.
According to reports, Mabo died in the early hours of yesterday after a protracted illness. Since the news broke, members of the football community, including the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Plateau United Football Club of Jos and the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) have been eulogising the octogenarian.
Speaking on the coach, NFF President, Ibrahim Gusau, said: “The death of Pa Ismaila Mabo came to me as a huge shock. Again, we have lost a great man and an accomplished trainer-of-trainers in the Nigeria Football fraternity, and my heart goes out to his immediate family and the other loved ones he has left behind.
“Mabo laid down a big marker for other coaches when he steered the Super Falcons to the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the USA in 1999. Yet, he was simple, humble and humane. We will miss him, but we are consoled that he left giant footprints in the sands of time and pray that God will grant him eternal rest.”
A gifted central defender, Ismaila Mabo started as a schoolboy international with the Nigeria academicals team that broke the chain of Ghana’s constant whipping of Nigerian teams, when they defeated Ghana’s academicals 1-0 in Accra on February 13, 1966. It was the first time any Nigerian team would defeat a Ghanaian team on Ghanaian soil.
Six days later, the Nigerian boys again defeated their Ghanaian counterparts 2-1 in Lagos. His team-mates were Peter ‘Baby’ Anieke, Tony ‘World 2’ Igwe, the illustrious Sam Garba Okoye and Eyo Essien.
After that accomplishment, Mabo joined Mighty Jets of Jos, and was part of that club’s famous squad of the late 1960s and 1970s. He also featured for the senior national team, making his debut in a 1972 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Congo in Brazzaville on November 22, 1970.
Mabo would later go into coaching and was in the dug-out as head coach when the Super Falcons defeated North Korea 3-2, lost to U.S. and defeated Denmark 2-0 to reach the quarterfinals at USA ’99 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The team stretched Brazil at that quarterfinal stage before losing by a golden goal in extra time in Washington DC on July 1, 1999.
Apart from leading Nigerian women’s team to several African Nations Cup titles, the late Coach Mabo also led the Super Falcons Team B to win the All African Games gold medal at Abuja 2003. He also led the team to the Athens 2004 Olympic Games in Greece.
Until his demise, Mabo was the Board Chairman of the Plateau State Sports Council, Jos. In their statement on the late Mabo signed by the club’s Media Officer, Albert Dakup, the club described the coach’s death as a great loss, not only to the state, but Nigeria as a whole in view of his invaluable contributions to the growth of female football in the country and the world at large.
Also saddened by Mabo’s demise, the Chairman of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) Interim Management Committee (IMC), Gbenga Elegbeleye, on behalf of the 20 NPFL Clubs, commiserated with the NFF and the people of Plateau State.
To former Super Falcons’ captain, Florence Omagbemi, who was part of Mabo’s record-breaking side of the 1990s and early 2000s, the late coach epitomised the best of the country’s women football. Omagbemi said: “His death is a big blow to Nigerian football. He will be remembered for the evolution of Nigeria’s women football.”
Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalung, described Mabo’s death as a great loss to the country. According to the governor, “Mabo is credited with discovering and mentoring young talents, grooming them and exposing them to great clubs in the state, Nigeria and the whole world, thereby enhancing the sport.”
His remains have since been committed to mother earth in Jos, Plateau State.