Stories by Kate Obodo
Super Falcons coach Eucharia Uche last week added another feather to her already loaded hat by leading the Super Falcons to regaining the African Women’s Championship trophy in South Africa.
Uche, as the former Nigerian striker is called, is the first female coach to have achieved this feat as previous victories came under male coaches but Uche says nothing is impossible even as a woman.
Saturday Sports was at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport when the victorious Falcons arrived the country last Monday afternoon from South Africa. The girls landed by 3.25pm but before then the scene was chaotic. On arrival, hell was let loose as security operatives did everything to deny journalists’ access to the players and officials but they were able to go the extra mile where others chickened out. In this brief interview, Uche praised God for the feat and said it was an honour to bring the trophy home.
Here are excerpts:
How do feel being the first female coach to win the AWC for Nigeria?
I feel honoured by Nigerians especially coming out to welcome us in appreciation for this victory. I feel very good.
What were the challenges encountered during the competition?
I think the most challenging and the toughest I had was playing against the host who were desperate. They wanted to qualify for the World Cup by all means. They gave it all they had and the whole South Africa came out in en masse to support them and at the end of the day we won. I think that match was very tough.
Given preparation for the AWC, what kind of preparation should Falcons have for the World Cup?
I would want this team to begin adequate preparation as early as January 2011.
We should start preparation because the World Cup starts in June. World Cup like you know is bigger than AWC. It is a bigger tournament and we intend to do well. That is why we must take preparation seriously. And I also intend to extend invitation to some of our foreign players who could not make it to AWC because of one problem or the other, to beef up the team with more experienced players to fill the loopholes we discovered.
So many people talked about Salimanta of Equatorial Guinea before the final game, how were you able to curtail her?
Salimanta was never new to us. She is not the only one. They are two sisters.
In 2008 we did not know them much but this time around and I know her, I watched her in this tournament and I saw her as an individual and not a team. I told my players that there was nothing to panic about. I only toldl my girls that Salimanta was just a player on the pitch and not a team and they should not entertain fear and they adhered to my instruction.
Some people say the team you inherited was a good one and that you did not do much work…
Not at all. When I took up this appointment, I made it clear that I will come up with a team for the future, a team that would be made of talents both old and new, and that was what I have done.
What can you say about Perpetua Nkwocha?
Perpetua is an extra ordinary player, a talented player but if you can recall two years ago she could not score any goal at the AWC. This time around I sat her down and told her that even at the face of her retirement, she could make it more memorable and she listened to me. That was what she did.
Your celebrations were wonderful, what inspired you especially on the aspect of you singing?
I was only giving glory to God, there is this music I am fond of dancing when my girls sing, they use to sing for me, and whenever they sing it I will surely dance and I promised them that at any goal they scored that I will dance for them. The song goes like this: “I waka waka no one no one , search and search no one no one, I look around me, no one no one, there is no one, there is no one like you.
International friendly, how are you preparing?
I think the international Friendly is very close, after this celebration we will gather together and work on that, we hope to do our best.
It appears that with this victory you are the first female coach to win this trophy?
As a person I have always been the first, right from my playing days I have always set the pace. To God be the glory.
Are you saying that you are going to be first Nigerian female coach to win the World Cup?
I would not promise you a World Cup trophy today, but I assure you I will make you smile.