Despite winning the African Women’s Nations Cup for a record eight times, the Super Falcons have remained uncelebrated unlike their male counterparts who would have been showered with money and landed properties by the Presidency, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), state governors and affluent individuals anytime they record success in the continent.
With such neglect of the girls, government, the sports ministry and the NFF are in no small measure ‘killing’ the passion of Nigerians in female football. The lack of motivation of the players and their coaches was apparent as the team played below par in most of their matches in Cameroon. The team was able to win the trophy purely on individual brilliance of the likes of Francesca Ordega, Rita Chikwelu, Asisat Oshoala and Desire Oparanozie.
Each time the girls came up against tougher opponents, they struggled to score goals in buckets like they are known for in past tournaments. Against rivals; Ghana, South Africa and Cameroon, the team laboured to score a goal in those matches but were able to keep things tight at the back.
With a backlog of camp allowance and match bonus owed the Super Falcons, the players were said to have threatened not to play the semi-final match against the Cameroonians but were later persuaded by NFF officials who promised to pay them N500, 000 each.
Such situation would never have arose in the case of the Super Eagles as the boys would have negotiated their camp allowance and match bonus before jetting out for such tournament. The Eagles would also ensure their cheques or cash are ready before kicking a ball in Cameroon.
Even at a period of recession, the Eagles would have negotiated $10,000 as winning bonus in the group stage and perhaps $15,000 and $20,000 for the quarter-final and semi-final.
For the poor girls, the NFF will hardly go beyond $1,000 as winning bonus in the group stage and the semi-final.
Now the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick and Sports Minister, Barr. Solomon Dalung who paid N42 million to charter a flight to Cameroon but could not offset the outstanding bonuses and allowances owed the Super Falcons beats my imagination.
Some of those girls are breadwinners with most of their siblings, parents and relatives looking up to them for financial assistance but they have had to live with empty promises of the NFF and sports ministry.
The girls who were to be hosted on Monday by President Muhammadu Buhari following their return from Cameroon at the weekend were left stranded at their Abuja hotel without anyone attending to them.
Lanky defender, Onome Ebi had her wrist broken in the final against the Cameroonians and would require surgery to correct the problem.. According to report, she will need the sum of N500, 000 to offset the surgery bill but no official statement has been made by the NFF on her plight yet.
For Nigeria not to lose its grip on female football in the continent, the NFF, the sports ministry and the Federal Government must encourage the Super Falcons and their coaching crew with cash gifts and landed properties in choice areas for their feat.
There is no doubt other African countries are catching up on the Super Falcons and it is only when our girls are treated in the same manner as their male compatriots that the younger female folks will pick interest in the game. We need to start building for the future as it is apparent the likes of Oshoala, Ordega, Chikwelu and Alaba Jonathan are not likely to be around 10 years from now.
We must encourage female football from primary to secondary and tertiary institutions for Nigeria to remain a strong force in African female football and to also compete favourably at the World Cup.