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Women, Youth, the future of Nigerian football

By Paul Bassesy
Last Saturday was indeed a busy one for Nigerian football with the country involved in three key matches.

First to kick off was the third place match in the FIFA U-20 Women World cup and the Falconets lost 1-2 to Japan.

Gloom. Prayers were offered that the Almighty should not allow the result to affect the two remaining matches, even as we forgot that the girls had emerged as the fourth best team in the whole world.

Next came the Golden Eaglets, facing a very daunting task, that of Nigerien teams always having our numbers. (They knocked us out of the last CHAN and held the Eagles to a draw few weeks ago) it is now history that the Eaglets dominated in an emphatic victory that would have stopped their opponents coming to Calabar for the return leg, if not for Fair Play and resultant sanctions and fines!

So encouraged, the Super Eagles filed out in Liberia, survived an early scare, went ahead only to re-capitulate. Since I did not see the match and have not been sufficiently briefed, I have no opinion about a result that many consider “… not good enough”

Today, I am forced to go back to the pending issue of the employment of Technical Director for our nation’s football. I have said it before and I repeat that FIFA emphatically stated that the employment of a Technical Director should be linked to DEVELOPMENT and WOMEN FOOTBALL.

There is no ambiguity. That all Federations should communicate the CV of that coach to FIFA which will go ahead to support with over 250 thousand US Dollars yearly to every Federation to help in the developmental programme put in place, that the Technical Director will help to implement.

Because we have politicized this issue, not only have we let drop by not appointing a Technical Director, we have in over two years now, forfeited the grants due us from FIFA. I HAVE NO DOUBT IN MY MIND THAT IF A TECHNICAL DIRECTOR WAS IN PLACE, TO HELP IMPLEMEMT FIFA’S DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME AS RELATED TO FEMALE FOOTBALL, THE FALCONETS WOULD HAVE GONE FARTHER IN JAPAN.

Why have we decided to crawl when the world is running?.

By coincidence, on Saturday in Niamey, I got this text from Nneka Ikem Anibeze, the Manager Sports and Outside Broadcast of FRCN asking after Super Eagles result. I queried her where about, saying she was the one who should have provided me with the result since I was out of the country.

She then said she was in Washington DC pursuing a four weeks Global Sports Mentoring Programme , a pet project of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aimed at getting more girls to participate in sports, avoid gender violence and improve better pay and better living for women.

According to Nneka, 17 women from all over the world were selected, including a FIBA Referee, a Volleyball coach, Women Sports Advocate, Director of law and regulation and Director, Management and Strategic Planning of the Brazilian ministry of sports.

In conjunction with EspnW, (a dedicated ESPN channel for women,) and several of America’s leading sports entities, this is a programme that has been created to empower emerging women in sports through focused mentorship and meaningful global networking opportunities and am I glad that one of us has been blessed with this opportunity. There is no how Nneka cannot come back more informed, an asset to self, her employers and the nation at large.

I have dwelt on this considerably because it is opportunities like this that we fail to capitalize on, yet we wake up blaming ourselves for not competing effectively against the rest of the world.

FIFA says women football can benefit from specialist treatment and extra fillip and we say “ Relax”.

Yes I was thrilled by the showing of the Golden Eaglets in Niamey, yet as they progress in the competition they come across stiffer opposition, especially of the intellectual kind.

We need as soon as possible to establish frequent meetings between all the coaches of the national teams in an effort to enforce synergy and continuity ( fifty person of the Falconets should be able to pick up starting shirts in the Falcons line up ) just as the NFF must put in place a facility that will help our coaches benefit from attachment to clubs abroad and so on.

The great work Stephen Keshi is trying to do at the domestic level may not be helped by the fact that we cannot even swear on the ages of those players in the domestic league, making it difficult for them to perform optimally, even if they desire so to do.

Or how else can you explain the struggle to beat Malawi, Rwanda, Niger and Liberia… after months of camping and undiluted support from the NFF? Did we have to get the President visiting, charter an aircraft, change hotels in Monrovia and offer out of this world bonus packages just to go and get a draw in Liberia? I am happy that Keshi himself has sounded the battle cry for a step up by October. The danger is not Liberia, the Challenge is the Nations Cup proper that will come up in South Africa less than THREE MONTHS away.

The MRI Scan innovation is a huge blessing to us. The present crop of the Golden Eaglets have in them over ten years of football and this is an investment that cannot go wrong, one that we will reap from, again and again. We cannot wait for FIFA and CAF to go ahead with MRI like auto gate keeping that will help us sanitise our sports and eliminate the “ age cheating tag” that we have muscularly tried to shake off over the years.

See you next week


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