By Ikeddy Isiguzo
NIGERIANS are in celebration after the scintillating performance of the Falconets in the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The 4-2 (penalty shoot outs) defeat of the USA in the quarter-finals of the competition is epochal, not because for the first time Nigeria would be playing in the semi-final, but the expectation that women’s football would get respect for the first time.
We are lost in the morass of pouring all our resources into men’s football, especially the Eagles, that we have neglected the women.
USA is the most dominant country in global female football and its U-20 team has never failed to reach the semi-final since the competition started in 2002.

It was the defending champion, and had garnered two wins, a third and fourth place in the four previous competitions  no other country has a record close to this.

Nigeria’s victory on Sunday was the only time an African team would reach the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup; the first time Nigeria would defeat USA in a FIFA Women’s World Cup match; the first time any team stopped the USA from reaching the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup semi-finals.

It also marked the breaking of the jinx of Nigeria getting to three previous quarter-finals, losing all.
Penalty kicks have been unkind to the Americans in the U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup. USA fell on penalty kicks in the both semi-final and third-place match during the 2006 tournament.

The Nigerian team that performed this feat – 1-Alaba Jonathan; 15-Joy Jegede (capt.), 17-Helen Ukaonu, 20-Osinachi Ohale, 5-Cecilia Nku, 10-Rebecca Kalu, 11-Glory Iroka, 8-Ebere Orji (13-Ngozi Ebere, 114), 9-Desire Oparanozie, 16-Amarachi Okoronkwo (7-Esther Sunday, 68), 18-Charity Adule. Subs not used: 2-Blessing Edoho, 3-Gloria Ofoegbu, 4-Martina Ohadugha, 6-Esther Michael, 12-Rabi Ihiabe, 14-Soo Adekwagh, 19-Uchechi Sunday, 21-Marbel Egwuenu Head Coach: Ndem Egan.

Nigerians should note that this team does not have a foreign coach. There were no 37 FA Chairmen travelling with the team to learn about female football. We are grateful to them for keeping their distraction to themselves.

The semi-final against Columbia was played yesterday. The outcome would be great whichever way it goes.
What did this team do that the others did not do? What can be done to sustain our development of female football? Our thoughts should be directed to these as we celebrate success from quarters we neglected.

No To Minister As NSC Chairman
TEN Ministers of Sports in 11 years is a recipe for disaster in any sector, especially sports with all its dynamism. Those insisting the Minister of Sports should be the Chairman of the National Sports Commission, NSC, should explain to Nigerians how the 10 Ministers of Sports in the past 11 years could have developed sports.

Sports need stability. If Nigeria was running an NSC, in 11 years there would have been only two boards of the NSC if the duration of the tenure of the board is five years.

The stability this provides would have shielded the NSC from the political decisions that determine the tenure of a Minister. It is my main contention that if the interest is the health of our sports, we would not contemplate for a moment the possibility of a Sports Minister being the Chairman of the NSC.

Each time the NSC Chairman (Minister) is changed, it would also mean a change in the chairmanship of the board. Imagine the impotence of the NSC in 11 years, during which the average tenure of the Minister/Chairman was 13.2 months? We should wake up to the reality of sports development and the effect of the tenure of the managers.

These were the Ministers of Sports in the past 11 years – Damishi Sango, Col. Musa Mohammed, Ishaya Mark Aku, Stephen Ibn Akiga, Mohammed Kao’je, Dr. Saidu Samaila Sambawa, Abdulrahman Gimba, Alhassan Bako Zaku, Sani Ndanusa, Ibrahim Bio. Each came, claiming to be willing to learn, they were usually in the preliminaries of their studies when they were changed, to be replaced by new learners.

We cannot decide for the President the tenure of the Minister. However, an NSC with a legally tenured board, would take care of the shocks of the consistent changes that hit sports with the arrival of each new Minister.

Another importance of a legal NSC is that the Act would state the qualifications of those who should hold office in the Commission.  We are today saddled with a Commission that is filled with non-sports professionals. The illegal NSC is treated like any other Ministry, and its staff could come from other federal government ministries or agencies.

The result is a pool of decision makers without knowledge of sports.
We need checks and balances too. The board reports to the Minister, instead of a Minister/Chairman who reports to himself.

I hope since we are all interested in the progress of sports we would sacrifice personal interests for sports. Anyone advocating or accepting the Minister of Sports as Chairman of the NSC would be adding to the burden of sports in the past 20 years, when there has been about 22 Ministers of Sports.

The House of Representatives should look at the proposed NSC Act again, we are too fair down the drain to take further measures to push us down.

A new NSC that bears the burden of the past would do sports more harm.

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