18 August 2012

Nigeria/Niger: Niamey Draw Not a Bad Result

There have been a lot of commentaries round town and in the media concerning the 0-0 draw that the Super Eagles played against Niger in an international friendly match in Niamey on Wednesday.

I had said before the match that I expected an emphatic win by the Super Eagles in the match, in order that the home boys would gain immeasurable confidence going into the battle with the overseas-based players for shirts in the final African Cup of Nations qualification race against Liberia.

However, I was able to follow the match courtesy of minute-by-minute details supplied by the likes of Director of Competitions, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi and Team Secretary, Enebi Achor. I must say that I expected a win, but the truth is that the Eagles did not play badly on the day.

We missed a number of good chances especially in the second half. But I am unwilling to blame the home boys for not winning due to certain factors before the game.

The heat made it difficult for the boys to train fully on Monday and they had to abandon the programme. There was some rain on Monday night and on Tuesday but the truth is that the first day disruption must have affected the entire programme of the coaching crew.

However, some positives must be taken from the match. The major talking point in previous seasons was the fact that the home boys were never even considered for the Super Eagles. The underlying factor was that they didn't have the exposure to dig their feet into the ground and contest favourably at international level.

That has changed now, with the new policy of encouraging the home lads and we have seen the positives with some of them breaking into the main team for big matches.

While the NFF would have wanted victory on Wednesday, we are satisfied with the boys' performance and will continue to work hard to encourage them with more matches in order to improve their exposure, experience and street wisdom at international level.

Falconets Must Take No Prisoners!

I remember Germany 2010 with very fond memories. By Germany 2010, I mean the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup finals.

It was the first tournament I was attending as the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, and the Falconets lifted their game to ensure a good office-coming for the new Board. Even when it looked like a mountain to climb, against the USA in the quarter finals, they rose to the occasion, scoring a marvelous equalizer and going ahead to win on penalties.

That was a rare defeat for Team USA in any women's football competition. But the Falconets did not stop there: they went ahead to cage Colombia in the semi finals, before losing to the German machine in the final match in Bielefeld.

Over the weeks, there have been good talk of the Falconets being determined to take a step further, to gold and trophy. For the NFF, it is the only acceptable possible outcome.

Determined that the Falconets must take that further step, the Nigeria Football Federation has been working assiduously in the past weeks to ensure quality preparation of the team and guarantee a conducive and happy environment for the team in Japan.

The first step was sending the girls on a two-week camping programme in Korea Republic, with a number of friendly matches. We actually wanted to set up a friendly with China but that did not work out. However, the girls had a good programme in Korea and showed better fitness and tactical awareness in their build-up, according to the coaches.

On Wednesday morning, the delegation departed from Korea Republic and arrived in the Japanese city of Saitama, venue of their first two matches at the World Cup (versus Korea Republic and Brazil).

The Nigeria Football Federation and the Nigeria Embassy in Japan have been networking brilliantly on how to ensure a very conducive environment for the players. The idea is to see that either in terms of support or menu, the Falconets feel at home away from home.

The Nigeria Embassy has been working to mobilize the Nigerian community in Japan to storm Saitama and Kobe for the Falconets' matches for effective and massive support for the girls. The leadership of the Nigeria Community has been brought fully into the picture.

Also, Nigerian food will be supplied by caterers who come highly recommended in order that the girls will not miss home too much.

Anyone who has been to Japan can confirm that it is always difficult to relate to their kind of food, particularly for those of us coming from Africa. The idea of providing Nigerian food for the players was well-received by the Nigeria Embassy and the meals will only be served on non-match days.

The 2012 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup finals start on Sunday, 19th August with the Falconets taking on Korea Republic. The battles on the field will be interesting spectacles considering the opposition that lie in waiting.

After the match against Korea Republic, the Nigerian girls will take on Brazil on Wednesday, 22nd August, and then round up the group phase by trading tackles with Italy's U-20 girls in Kobe on Sunday, 26th August.

All the matches look like top draws and the Falconets must be at the top of their game to conquer. I have faith that they will do Nigeria proud.

Thanks, Gov. Ahmed...

Last Sunday, the Flying Eagles did the expected by lashing their visitors from Tanzania 2-0 to seal passage into the final round of qualifiers for the 2013 African Youth Championship.

Goals by Abdul Ajagun and Alhaji Gero ensured victory but overall, the Flying Eagles showed improvement in all areas of their game and they can only get better.

With South Africa's Amajita waiting in the wings, Coach John Obuh and his assistants have to continue to do even more to build an unbeatable side, a team that will be able to make Nigerians happy anytime it is on the field and be able to successfully defend our country's African title in Algeria next year March.

I wish to use this medium to express the heartfelt appreciation of the Nigeria Football Federation to His Excellency, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State for hosting the team in the State of Harmony.

Our gratitude to his cabinet members, special advisers and special assistants, legislators and the Kwara State Football Association for the wonderful job done to ensure hitch-free hosting of the match.

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