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Hisses, despite Falconets’ victory over Zimbabwe

Hisses, despite Falconets’ victory over Zimbabwe

Why NFF sacked former coach, Egan

AS the game between the Falconets of Nigeria and the Zimbabwean U-20 women team was going on at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta, one of the coaches watching from the VIP Stand, Osita Diamond, was wondering how the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) arrived at its decision to sack the team’s former handler, Adat Egan.

Egan made history in 2010 by guiding the first Nigerian and African women team to the final of a FIFA competition. At the last edition of the FIFA U-20 Women World Cup in Germany, Egan, who is the coach of Pelican Stars of Calabar, performed wonders by guiding Nigeria to qualify for the final before falling 0-2 to the host country.

Despite the defeat, Egan and his girls were given a heroic welcome by President Goodluck Jonathan and other eminent Nigerians, as well as some corporate organisations, on their return from Germany.

Apart from the presidential honour in Abuja, the girls and their handlers got $50,000 cash gift from the Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, who was then chairman of the Presidential Task Force on the national teams. The management of Cadbury Nigeria Plc also showered cash gift on the girls in fulfillment of the TomTom Shot On Goals award.

That same year, two other Nigerian teams, the U-20 male team led by coach John Obuh and the national U-17 women team, the Flamingoes, led by coach Peter Dedevbo, fumbled at the quarter-final stages in Columbia and Trinidad and Tobago respectively.

With such brilliant performance by the Nigerian girls at Germany 2010, many football faithful, including Diamond, were looking forward to seeing Egan retain his job or elevated to the Super Falcons, but it was not to be, as he and his assistants, Wemimo Oni Olarenwaju and Christopher Alor, were swept away by the NFF.

“I am highly disturbed on why the NFF should drop coach Egan and I want someone to throw more light on how coaches are rated in the country,” Diamond, who handles a female team in Lagos, complained to The Guardian.

“Is it an offence for a coach to take Nigeria to the final of a FIFA World Cup, or, what offence could he have committed to warrant such punishment? Look at ‘failures’ like Obuh and Dedevbo retaining their jobs and the only successful one (Egan) being made a sacrificial lamb. This is a crime against humanity on the part of the NFF.”

The Guardian, however, learnt that the NFF ignored Egan in its appointment of coaches this year for allegedly not involving some top officials of the body in spreading the bounties that accrued to the team after the Germany 2010 World Cup.

No NFF official was willing to speak when The Guardian raised the issue in Abeokuta over the weekend, but a source hinted at the team’s Richton Hotel shortly after the Nigeria/Zimbabwe game that some top officials of the body swore last year never to forgive Egan for “ignoring” them in matters concerning the cash gifts.

A source close to team has defended coach Egan saying that the money was meant for the players and their handlers and not NFF officials.

On the field of play, meanwhile, nothing seems to have changed. It was the same kick and follow pattern of football of the Nigerian girls that led to their non-qualification for the All Africa Games in Maputo and the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Though the Falconets won 3-0, but their style of play and poor technical input on the part of coach Edwin Okon gave the fans a lot to worry about. One of the fans asked midway into the first half: “How come the Falconets are hitting their balls against their opponents instead of aiming at the post?

“They are lucky we are not playing against Ghana, Cameroun or South Africa. Even the U-17 female team that defeated Zambia here two weeks ago would have done better.”

Despite fielding the experienced Desire Okparanozie, Esther Sunday, Ebere Orji, Ordega Francisca, Gloria Ofoegbu and Charity Adule, the Falconets found it difficult penetrating the inexperienced Zimbabweans, who were waiting to be buried with goals.

Perhaps, one major distraction for the fans throughout the match was the huge crowd of appointees the Aminu Maigari-led NFF board introduced into the female team. Apart from the regular coaching crew of chief coach, two assistants and a goalkeeper trainer, there was a long list of other officers like the team secretary, welfare officer, masseur, physiotherapist, camp commandant and curator, thus swelling the Falconets camp in Abeokuta.

First Vice President Mike Umeh led the NFF delegation to Abeokuta. There was also the Chairman, NFF Technical Committee, Christopher Green, Director, Technical, Emmanuel Ikpeme, Head of International Competitions, Mahammed Salusi, and Chairman, Nigeria Women Football League, Dilichukwu Onyedinma.

Others included the General Co-ordinator of all Women Teams, Aisha Falode, Co-ordinator of Falconets, Andrew Abba, NFF Media Officer, Ademola Olajire, Falconets’ Media Officer, Ejiro Babafemi, Translator, Bola Oyeyode, and Protocol Officer, Emma Ayabumi.

At the beginning of the game, Falode sat in the VIP box with the other dignitaries, but relocated to the track shortly after the second half began to join in passing instructions when necessary.

The post-match interview by coach Okon was a complete disaster. Apart from displaying his naivety in front of cameras, he kept repeating the same word to questions from the journalists: “I thank God for everything. The girls played to instruction.”

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