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Giant strides in women league must impact on Falcons

It is a delight to state that the Nigeria Women’s Football League is waxing stronger every season. After the regular league season, the NWFL’s Super Six is another spectacle to behold. We recall that the 2021 edition took place in Ijebu-Ode with Rivers Angels beating highlyrated Bayelsa Queens to the title. This term, the two teams will meet in one of the opening games of the 2022 NWFL Super Six which received a big boost this week with the announcement of Tulcan Energy as sole sponsors. The event starts on May 16 in Benin, Edo State and already it is expected to be an improvement on the last edition.

The management of the NWFL, headed by Aisha Falode, deserves huge commendation for taking the domestic league to this level. They follow best practices around the world in the organisation of the league and they strive to bring out the talents in the hidden parts with the three tiers of the domestic league – Nationwide, Championship and the Premiership – every season.

The draw event for the Super Six staged during the week was of FIFA standard and spectators were glued to their seats with various aspects of the programme. A young girl from Imo Strikers, Harmony Achifula, was at the event to pick the draw as a reward for her exploits in the recent Nationwide playoffs where she scored 11 goals in four matches. Falcons’ captain, Onome Ebi, was also there to assist with the draw. It can be recalled that at the last World Cup, eight domestic league players including Chiamaka Nnadozie, Annam Imo, Amarachi Okoronkwo, Rashidat Ajibade, Chinma Okeke and Uchena Kanu were regulars in the Falcons line-up at the women’s Mundial.

We make bold to say that the domestic football league is the best yardstick to measure the development of the game in any country. It is the avenue which national coaches and fans of the game bank on to see future stars and potential senior national team players. The standard of the game is best evaluated with the league and that is why Nigeria’s failure in the CHAN competition is not far-fetched. We are aware the CHAN is organised for domestic league players across the continent but sad enough Nigeria is yet to win it and the country even failed to qualify for the finals of the last edition. Fans of the game and stakeholders generally are worried that the league is not on television; they are worried that there is a calendar imbalance in which the season can start and end at any time.

People are worried that the win-at-home syndrome persists while the standard of officiating and the state of the pitches are still suspect. Every year, we lament the early exit of the country’s representatives in continental football competitions. Above all, it is disturbing that the domestic league players (male) are deemed not good enough to feature for the senior national team. In the ongoing season, it is disturbing that hooliganism at league venues is fast rearing its ugly head. Kano Pillars took on Katsina United at the Sani Abacha Stadium and it was fracas that ended the encounter abruptly.

The bus of the visiting team was damaged while some spectators suspected to be Katsina fans were beaten. The League Management Company deducted three points from Kano Pillars and also gave a suspended three points’ penalty. The team was banished to Abuja for their home games while the club’s management is to cough up N9 million as penalty for the offences. Only a week ago, the Mountain of Fire Football Club of Lagos took on Rangers of Enugu at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos and there were crowd disturbances which also led to physical assault on the referee of the match.

The LMC ruled that the MFM will play their next three home matches in Ijebu-Ode and the team was fined N1 million for crowd encroachment and another N1 million for failure to provide adequate security. It is sad that the NPFL that is not giving many of us the desired joy is again putting the game into disrepute. The MFM punishment is too lenient for the offence committed and it is important for the LMC to be tough on hooliganism to save the game from further decline. Back to the women’s league, Falode and her team are recording giant strides in the women’s football scene just as the men’s league continues to suffer decline in terms of quality, organisation and general acceptance.

However, there must be a deliberate effort to get the Super Six on television while the crunch games in regular season can also be on TV to further boost the profile of the women’s league. After all, former FIFA boss, Sepp Blatter, noted that the future of football is feminine. With the good tidings in the domestic women’s league, it then means the future is here for Nigeria. More importantly, the Super Falcons must make the developmental programmes in the NWFL show by maintaining dominance in Africa and go a step further to conquer the world. The progress in the league must reflect in the senior national team.

 

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