This Day (Lagos)

17 November 2012

Nigeria: AWC Fiasco - Ikhana the Fall Guy!

Yes we had never had it so bad. The Super Falcons used to be the scourge of other female teams on the African continent. Once a match was to be played involving Nigeria's senior national female team the result was virtually a foregone conclusion - a win for the Falcons.

We went into the just concluded African Women's Championships in Equatorial Guinea very confident that the Falcons would be leaving with their African crown still on their heads.

Instead what happened was that while we had belief others had the talent and determination to upset the apple cart.

And for the first time in history of the competition, the Falcons failed to return with a medal of any colour!

Coach Kadiri Ikhana, who had met the Nigeria Football Federation's (NFF) minimum target of reaching the semi-finals when he signed his contract on April 1 this year, instead opted to quit after admitting that he failed to meet his own set target, which was to win the trophy.

While the decision of the former Enyimba gaffer is quite honourable, however, like most Nigerians in hallowed positions, he was caught up in the bug of playing to the gallery.

On the day he was to play South Africa in a semi-final clash he confidently boasted that his Falcons would not only beat the Banyana Banyana but would go on to win the competition - undefeated. However, we are all witnesses to what actually happened!

Please I'm not trying to criticise the former national team star, but in recent time I have been harping on the need for our sports officials to be cautious with their utterances so that they don't end up with egg on their faces.

Already Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi has been caught up in the 'boast bug' vowing that his team fears no foe and will be returning from next year's Nations Cup finals in South Africa with the trophy - he has forgotten that there are 15 other nations with the same goal!

A highly placed NFF official I spoke to recently admitted that they were worried by over hyping the Eagles by the coach which will only bring unwanted pressure on the team.

"We have already told him (Keshi) to tone down his utterances and make more realistic comments. We only hope he will listen," said the board member.

From what I gleamed, the Glass House will dearly love to reach the final and possibly win the competition (which is only natural) but will be pleasantly satisfied with a semi-final showing because there main concern is getting a team good enough to not only qualify but go on to do well at Brazil 2014. At least this is a realistic expectation.

Hardly will you hear foreign managers or football associations boasting that they will win tournaments, rather they give what they believe to be realistic targets hoping to do better at the subsequent competition.

For South Africa 2010, the England football establishment set a semi-final target for the Three Lions, in the end they were outclassed by Germany in the quarter-finals. But at least they did not set any unrealistic target (like promising to win the competition).

One only hopes that our officials will learn and stop playing to the gallery and instead allow their work do the talking for them.

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