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Friday, December 9, 2022

Flamingoes Impressive Outing

FOR the first time in the history of U-17 female World Cup, the Nigerian team, the Flamingoes, won the bronze medal in an exciting outing in India. The team, which narrowly missed out on a place in the final match, after 5-4 penalty shootout loss to Columbia, survived a 3-2 penalty shootout victory over Germany to win the bronze medal. The team had earlier in the quarter-final defeated one of the competition’s favourites, the USA team, 4-3 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw in a pulsating match in Navi Mumbai.

THE Flamingoes had participated in five of the six previous editions of the tournaments, which began in 2008 in New Zealand but had never made it beyond the quarter final. In their debut outing, the Flamingoes crashed out at the group stage. In the 2010 edition in Trinidad and Tobago, the Nigerian team won all their group stage matches but lost to South Korea in the quarter final. In the 2012 edition in Azerbaijan, Nigeria again topped their Group A with seven points, but later lost to France 5-3 on penalties. In Costa Rica 2014, the Flamingoes again topped their group but again lost 3-0 to Spain in the quarter final. In Jordan 2016 edition, they could not progress beyond the group stage.  The team also failed to qualify for the 2018 edition of the tournament. The quarter final jinx was unexpectedly broken in the 2022 edition with the team winning a bronze medal, despite losing the first match 2-1 to Germany in the opening match.

WE commend the spirit and resilience of the players and the entire technical crew for making the country proud with the feat achieved.  Specifically, we commend the 100% local coaching crew, headed by Coach Olanrewaju Olowookere for justifying the need for Nigeria to look inward for technical crew members within the country and jettison the idea of seeking foreigners to handle our national teams. This buttresses our position that Nigerian coaches, given the necessary support and encouragement would do better than their foreign counterpart. We appeal to the federal government, through the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, to sufficiently appreciate the team players and the crew as it was done for those that did the nation proud at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

WE hereby admonish the NFF to invest in the team and not discard them as done to previous under-age national teams. The Under-17 female team should be graduated to the Under-20 team and onward to the female senior team. This will ensure consistency, cohesion and proper grooming of the players. The country should learn from nations like Spain and Belgium, where the male national team is dominated by players from their under-age teams. There is also the need for a developmental plan and proper implementation for the under-age teams and the national ones. The country must do away with the culture of haphazard planning few days to competitions. The developmental process must be properly monitored and evaluated for efficiency.

BEYOND the Under-17 female football team, it is expedient on the Nigerian Football Federation to treat local coaches the same way they adore foreign ones. The likes of Olowookere, Late Stephen Keshi, Late Yemi Tela and other Nigerian coaches have proven that with good remuneration, proper incentives and adequate welfare, local coaches and athletes can perform excellently. More importantly, there is need to continuously train and retrain our local handlers in modern sports administration and management. Rather than shopping for foreign technical crews, we must empower and build the capacity of our local coaches to favourably compete with their foreign counterparts.

ALSO, the NFF needs to imbibe the spirit of patriotism in sports administration in Nigeria. Over the years, sports management in the country has been riddled with corruption, agitations and unnecessary crises. One of these led to the disqualification of the female national basketball team, the Tigress from the next Olympic Games. The last Olympic Games in Japan was a show of shame for the country as 10 athletes were disqualified over negligence on the part of the Nigerian Olympic Committee. This led to protest by the affected athletes and the situation reached a climax as the Nigerian officials even withheld the Samsung phones meant for the disqualified athletes.

IN 2016, retired Nigerian football legend, John Mikel Obi, had to settle hotel bills for Nigerian Olympic team in Brazil to secure their release, an ugly development the then Minister of Sports denied, as expected of a government official. In several international tournaments, there had been cases of non-payment of allowances, inadequate or unavailability of national kits to compete, favouritism of athletes over others, bribery and other nefarious activities that have continuously undermined Nigeria’s hope of admirable performance in international competitions.

WITHOUT these, the nation may struggle where it should excel and being a giant in sporting tournaments will forever remain a dream.

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