24 November 2012

Nigeria/Equatorial Guinea: Falcons' Flop and the Buck Passing Game

It is no longer news that Super Falcons invincibility on the continent of Africa was further reduced to the barest minimum when they failed to win anything at the just at the just concluded 8th edition of the Africa Women Football Championship in Equatorial Guinea.

Although in local parlance it is said thunder does not strike twice at the same spot, the same did not apply to the Nigerian Women national team as they again surrendered the African Women title at the same place just the way they did in 2008.

Based on their antecedents, the Falcons were favoured to win their seventh title but they failed to saor high enough when it mattered most. The coach Kadiri Ikahana led girls failed to fly past the Banyana Banyana of South Africa in the semi-finals. They eventually lost the third place match to their perennial rivals, the indomitable Lioness of Cameroon.

Falcons' outing in this year's AWC is clearly the team's worst performance in competitive football on the continent. Even when they surrendered the trophy in 2008, the team returned home with a consolatory bronze medal.

Moment after the team's dismal performance in Equatorial Guinea, Falcons chief coach, Kadiri Ikhana took the path of honour as he voluntarily resigned from his position. Many applauded his decision to relinquish the position despite the millions he would have earned, if he had chosen to fight to stay back.

Ikhana's resignation did not do anything to douse the anger and disappointment of Nigerian football fans and women football stakeholders. As expected, most critics of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, have cashed in on the opportunity to blame the federation for the shameful outing of the Falcons.

Even before the Falcons catastrophe in Equatorial Guinea, the NFF and its technical committee received the sticks from football pundits who felt there was no justification for Ikhana who has spent all his time playing and coaching men's football to be appointed Falcons manager.

Thus, when the crash occurred, such critics were quick to lay the blame at the door steps of the football federation, particularly its technical committee. Not a few said the technical committee that employed Ikahan should go with him.

However, some were of the opinion that a more vibrant women league would have made it possible for qualitative players to be raised for the Falcons. For such observers, the Women Football League board should be blamed for its inability to play its role in supplying Falcons with the players.

For such concerned Nigerians, the blame for Falcons failure should be on the board of the Women League but this is the kind of accusation the chairman of the league, Chief (Mrs) Dilichukwu Onyedinma won't accept

The chairman of the women league on Thursday held a press briefing to usher in the 2012 Super Six competition and it was an opportunity for her to fight back. She made it clear that those who are quick to lay the blame for Falcons failure on her board are nothing but mischief makers.

She argued that since the inception of her board, a lot has been done to make the women league more vibrant than it was in the past. Onyedinma regretted that despite the numerous achievements of the board, its detractors are bent on pulling it down.

The chairman insisted it is not the responsibility of her board to organize the female national teams. She argued that the technical committee of the Nigeria Football Federation should be asked to explain what happened to the Falcons.

"If we have the right people at the right places, we would achieve results. What it takes is the person who will pick the players we need. It is the technical committee that will do the job and not the league. The league always does its own. The players in the league make up the national U-17 and U-20. Those who watched Japan and Azerbaijan have always told us that we have produced good players.

"Even the President of this country has honoured us by appreciating the U-20 team for making a mark in Japan and this is just one hundred percent league players. The U-17 is also one hundred percent league players. Falcons' failure has nothing to do with the women league.

"I challenge people who say because of Falcons performance we need intervention to tell us what intervention they are taking about. I don't think we need any intervention and I should advise such people who are bringing up this issue to intervene in the national league where they claimed to be. I have not seen any intervention in the national league. There is no sponsorship in the National League. So I am throwing it back to the league. People are trying to distract us and we have said nobody will distract us. We would move on and make sure that we salvage the Nigerian women football", she assured.

From the foregoing, it is easier to know where the chairman of women league is coming from. She is not ready to take responsibility for another person's lapses. Meanwhile, the Nigeria Football Federation is yet to come out with a public statement to either accept or reject coach Ikhana's resignation.

Although the chairman of the women league has exonerated her board of complicity in Falcons woeful performance, many women football stakeholders have stuck to their guns that only a functional women league can help reverse the declining fortunes of the Falcons.

In separate interviews with Shot!, two former coaches of the Falcons, Coach Ismaila Mabo and Paul Hamilton insisted that nothing other than a vibrant female league can bring back the team's lost glory.

They, therefore, called on the Nigeria Football Federation to come to the aid of women football by giving all the necessary support to the women league. For now the buck passing game is on and it will take a while for the dust raised by Falcons catastrophic fall in Equatorial Guinea to settle.

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