Sports

Women league’s success, challenge to NPFL

A former President of the Federation of International Football Association, Joseph Sepp Blatter, said the future of football was feminine. That was well over five years ago. He argued that many things the male football players do are things the women will still do and surpass as the game gathers momentum among the opposite sex, female. Nigeria is number one on the continent in women’s football but over the years, countries like Ghana, Cameroon, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea are posing serious threats to the dominance of the Super Falcons. Gone are those days when the Falcons would win any match on the continent with a high margin.

There are some countries that are fast catching up with the standard of Nigeria in women’s football and it is expected that so much work must be done to breed fresh talents from the grassroots The domestic league is the template to evaluate the standard of women’s football in the country and so much emphasis has been on the league in the past three years.

Only recently, the best six teams in the Nigeria Women’s Football League were in Ijebu Ode for the Super Six tournament that was organised to produce a winner in the league. They were Bayelsa Queens, Delta Queens, Rivers Angels, Edo Queens, FC Robo Queens and Sunshine Queens.

After a week-long event, perennial champions and title holders, Rivers Angels, emerged as the overall winners. The Garden City outfit lost the first two games only to power back strongly to win the remaining four matches. The victory earned Rivers Angels the ticket to represent Nigeria at the WAFU B qualifiers for the maiden CAF Women’s Champions League.

The 2021 NWFL Premiership Super Six Championship attracted the cream of Nigerian football family, including administrators, stakeholders, government bigwigs among others. It was a shock as most administrators who were at the National Sports Festival few days back, were also in Ijebu Ode for the Super Six. Youthful FC Robo Queens of Lagos had a bright start but somehow crumbled in the last two games of the tournament. Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu threw his weight behind Robo Queens but to no avail.

It was interesting to note that until the final match day, four teams were on the cards for the title before Rivers eventually clinched it with the 4-0 victory over Edo Queens on the last day. The chairperson of the NWFL, Aisa Falode, deserves commendation for making the Super Six a big carnival that attracted the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, and the NFF boss, Amaju Pinnick. No doubt, the NWFL has been vibrant under Falode. The league was able to activate their restart before the men’s league, the Nigeria Professional Football League. It was also good to note that the NWFL was consistent with the two matches in a week format which the NPFL could not achieve. It is also important to state that rather than the women leaning from men, it is the other way round. Edo Deputy Governor, Philip Shuaibu, says many things the chieftains in the NPFL struggle to do are done easily by the NWF. “We have to appreciate the Women league because the organization is always top notch and they seems to be better with ideas more that the NPFL,” Shaibu said.

The NWFL came up with abridged league to fulfill the directive of African football body on the country’s representative for the inaugural CAF Champions League for Women. Now, a true winner of the league has emerged and the name has been sent to CAF. Rivers State Government should be ready for the challenges ahead in playing continental games. Enyimba had issues only few weeks back until the state government provided a chartered flight for their trip to Libya. The logistics of moving around should be considered early enough.

Nigeria should win the maiden edition of the competition as one expects the NFF to also support the Rivers State-based team to excel in the first edition of Africa’s inter-club competition for women. All eyes will be on the Angels and it is expected that all those concerned should make Rivers United represent the country with heads up. The NPFL is currently on break and it expected that the chieftains of the league learn from the way NWFL has successfully concluded its season to bring out a winner without issues. Again, kudos to the NWFL and we expect the improvement in the league to make the national team Falcons better on the continent and beyond.

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