Falconets left Nigeria unnoticed. Not even the Football Association took them seriously. But their strides up to the final of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Germany changed all that. And when they returned on Monday, the reception shocked them.
Defender Rebecca Kalu said that she never in her wildest dream thought that they were going to be showered with such outpouring of encomiums by a nation which barely cared to give them a shout-out when they were preparing and leaving for the competition in Germany.
"I am just shocked. I am still in shock that we are getting such a reception because nobody was at the airport to bid us farewell when we were travelling. But now, we are being celebrated. This is strange.
This is a strange country. I never in my life thought that such a day like this would come but I thank God that it is happening and pray thatit would continue to happen", said the fair-complexioned central defender.
Also speaking on their neglect before the tournament, Alaba Jonathan said that Nigerians must learn to encourage their athletes for them to excel in tournaments.
"They did not know that we existed before the tournament started but we told ourselves that we must fight for recognition and that helped us a lot. If not for the struggle, our people would not come out drumming for us. But it is not good that athletes are not celebrated before a tournament.
Nigerians must change their attitude", she said. Striker Ebere Orji, who scored the winner in the semifinal clash against Colombia, said that women in sports must be encouraged because of their recent exploits in football and athletics.
"We deserved better treatment from our people before our trip to Germany. We came second while our women also won seven of the eight gold medals that Nigeria won at the African Athletics Championships in Kenya.
If we were adequately supported before these two events, I am sure that we would have done better", said Orji, who has been invited to the Super Falcons camp ahead of October's African Women Championship in South Africa.