Expectedly, Nigeria’s Super Falcons are African champions for the ninth time in 11 editions of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. Winning continental honours with over 81% success indicates that the Super Falcons are the dominant forces in Africa.
But the bare statistics speak little about the increasing decline in the status of the team. The gulf that existed between the pedigree of the Super Falcons and that of the rest of the Africa is increasingly narrowing.
In essence, the rest are catching up, while the standard in Nigeria is at best stagnant if not declining. In the just concluded tournament in Ghana, the Super Falcons played 330 minutes of matches without scoring in the open play.
The statistics consist of the blank shots in the 90 minutes of the opening encounter with South Africa, and the 120 minutes played with each of Cameroon and South Africa in the final stages. It is the lottery of penalty shootout that earned the team both the World Cup ticket and the continental title.
Goals, almost in torrents, were scored against only the punching bags of Group B – Zambia and Equatorial Guinea. It should be noted that the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year will not feature such weaklings.
At the best of forms, the Super Falcons had never found their feet at the global level, even though the dominance in Africa earned the team the honour of being one of the only seven to have attended all the past seven editions of the tournament since the inaugural edition in 1991.
Yet of the seven that comprise of USA, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Norway and Sweden, the Super Falcons are the only one not has ever become one of the third-place finishers. Next year, it will be exactly 20 years since they had their best outing, a quarter-final finish at USA ’99.
Shall they continue to live in past glory? That is why a lot more have to be done. The Super Falcons appear to be the only one of Nigeria’s national teams that commands little or no attention. The only significant preparation in the form of friendly match was the one played against France earlier in the year.
Of course, the results speak volumes on the gap between our team and those of the ambassador class, the medium but rare and those still learning the hard way as the FIFA Technical Report of China 1991 espoused on the three-tiered participants.
At the global level, Nigeria still remains at the third tier, even 27 years after. It calls for urgent concern. Virtually all the squad members of the current Super Falcons are based abroad; an indication of the paucity of talents at home. In the early days of 1990s, women clubs established by spirited enthusiasts dotted virtually all parts of the country.
These days, the clubs have thinned out leaving the Rivers Angels, Bayelsa Queens, Delta Queens and Pelican Stars as some of the few existing ones and without vibrant domestic competitions to sustain, let alone multiply talents.
Except urgent steps are taken by the Nigeria Football Federation, the end of Nigeria’s dominance in this category of football is imminent. Even as we draw most of the Super Falcons’ players abroad, a time will come when there will be none to export to be refined for later-day importation into the Super Falcons.
Probably to increase the interest in women’s football, the clubs in the NPFL could be encouraged to have teams of opposite sex. Considering that women’s clubs attract no gate fees which is the barest to sustain the clubs in competitions, the ones attached to NPFL clubs can play curtain raiser matches ahead of the main menu especially if the opposing clubs are in the neighbourhood.
For instance, a fixture of Enugu Rangers and Enyimba can be preceded as a curtain raiser by the women’s teams attached to the two clubs. That way, those who ordinarily will not go out to watch women’s football will have the opportunities.
The ladies get exposed to more competitions and in crowd attended environments. The result will be multiplication of talents and the raising of women football to the next level.