Author Topic: Nigeria: Falcons - Akide Suggests Way Out, Jegede, Ukaigwe Hopeful  (Read 920 times)

Offline David

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THE fear of being grouped alongside the power-houses of female soccer is causing ripples in the female national team as well as the Nigeria Football Association, NFA. And one of Africa's star players, Merci Akide heightened their fears yesterday when she predicted doom to the Falcons.

"Except for a miracle, I don't see the Falcons doing well in that group. And miracles and grace of God may not follow you if you are not well prepared spiritually and physically", Akide, a former African footballer of repute who holds the enviable record of playing in three World Cups and two African Women Championships said as she declined to offer her services to the Falcons.

Nigeria's Super Falcons were handed an exact replica of their tough 2003 Fifa Women's World Cup draw when they were grouped along with two-time champions USA, who are top of the Fifa Women's world rankings; 2003 finalists Sweden and the hard to beat North Korea.

"The only way the Falcons can make an appreciable impact in the World Cup is by hiring a foreign coach and by playing many friendly matches", Akide said from her base in America.

But coach Ntiero Effiom is un-faced as he said that the NFA holds the trump card to the women doing well in China. "No doubt, those countries are strong teams but we can still cause upsets if the NFA approve my programmes. We need quality friendly from teams like Norway and China and that would have toughened our girls. One other advantage is the fact that we have players who ply their trades in Europe", the coach said.

And one of Nigeria's top female writers, Henrietta Ukaigwe admitted to the toughness of the group but said that Nigeria stand the chance of even advancing beyond the quarter final which remains their benchmark in the World Cup. "The Falcons are a force to be reckoned with. People should not dismiss them outrightly because of teams like USA, Sweden and North Korea. Anything can happen in football and our players have matured in experience. All they need to do well is to get to play many quality friendly matches. Believe me, they can shock the World", Ukaigwe who is the brain behind the Female Football Interest Group, FFIG, a non Governmental interest group on female football in Nigeria said.

Dousing fears of doom as proclaimed by Akide, Ukaigwe said that she Akide deserves respect but should not be forced into the team. "If she opts out of the team, she should be respected. She has paid her dues. But, writing the Falcons off like that is another thing. We still have quality players like Perpetual Nkwocha, Maureen Mmadu, Stella Mbachu, Faith Ikidi, and Cynthia Uwak. They are professionals and have tested their might with the best players in the world. They can take Nigeria beyond the quarter finals", Ukaigwe predicted.

Other heavyweights in female football like Princess Bola Jegede have advised for the inclusion of players like Akide to make up for experience and psychological balance in the team. But no matter the prayers, the Falcons surely face a herculean task in the group of death.