Super Falcons: Pinnick, Danjuma, Rivers Angels role in All African Games disaster

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Nigeria’s Super Falcons were disgraced at the All Africa games after failing to make the final or even grab a consolatory bronze medal.
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The showing was a disaster, but where did it all go wrong?

Three months ago, the senior women’s national team were booted out of the 2015 Fifa Women’s World Cup after a disappointing campaign that saw them finish bottom of Group D with only a point.

Despite a stunning comeback opening draw against Sweden, the fast-fading Falcons collapsed in form and went on to suffer two defeats against Australia and eventual winners USA.

Nigerians’ desire for the country’s senior women’s team to make up for their poor outing in Canada, was left unfulfilled, as fans witnessed something even worse in Congo, with three straight defeats for the Falcons.

The speedy decline of the Super Falcons remains a huge concern, with shameful defeats to unfancied countries like Equatorial Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire making them look very ordinary and vulnerable.

They have attended all female World Cups and Olympics competitions since their inception, but failed to qualify—for the second year in a row—for the Olympics.

The inadequate preparation and limited international exposure of the team in recent years look to be the main problems behind the team’s ugly performing trend.

The country’s poor outing in Canada prompted the sacking of Edwin Okon, despite winning a record seventh African Women Championship title, as he was regularly accused of inviting too many players from his domestic club River Angels.

As usual, the acting head coach of the Super Falcons Chris Danjuma, has blamed for his team’s poor showing at the AAG on his own personal frustration, having previously been told that he will lose his job.

Two weeks earlier, NFF President Amaju Pinnick announced that should the Super Falcons qualify for the All African Games, they will have been led in Congo by a foreign coach.

“I am human. Even though we are professionals, we still have emotions. We come out every day to give our best to make a name for ourselves and make our country proud,” Danjuma said.

“But while we are yet on this we hear the news back home and whether you like it or not these things affect us because we are human. We did not know anymore what to think because we were under pressure.

“We suffered from inexperience because we brought some new legs to test in this tournament. And things didn’t work out the way we wanted,” he lamented.

Danjuma could ‘boast’ of one of the all-time poorest coaching records, with one win and draw and four losses in just six games including missing out on the Rio 2016 Olympics ticket.

His decision to tinker with the play pattern and overhauling of the team inherited from Okon, and of fielding inexperienced players saw the country record a mediocre performance.

He had earlier blamed the country’s botched Rio 2016 qualification attempt on the loss of the team’s late media officer Akujobi Gracious.

Upon Okon’s sacking, the NFF moved to check the plenty call-ups from Port Harcourt by introducing a quota system with the appointment of Danjuma, who had earlier served as Okon’s assistant in an interim capacity.

The untimely introduction of needless quota system, in order to avoid the situation that emerged with Okon’s Angels, has failed to produce a better on-field product.

The uninspiring showing of the Falcons in Congo-Brazaville could also be connected to the unfulfilled presidential reception promised to the team after winning the record-seventh continental title last year.

Without sentiment, the bulk of players from Rivers Angels had aided the improved quality and helped the nation regain its lost continental glory in three years.

It was learnt that the Nigeria Football Federation requested for four players each from each of the Nigeria Women’s Premier League clubs when the 33-woman list was drawn for the training camp before being trimmed to 18.

We also understood that, following the sacking of Okon, his Port Harcourt outfit was accused of sabotaging the national team over the release of players while others reportedly declined to play under the acting coach for personal reasons.

As time has moved on, the backlash against River Angels—with accusations of jealousy following their influential role in the women’s side—has ultimately cost the national side.

It’s no surprise that the Angels, following great domestic success, have exported several key stars to foreign clubs. The Super Falcons need to make the most of all of her resources, wherever they may play.

The national side are now back to where they found themselves in 2012 under coach Kadiri Ihkana, but the possibility of a revival with a proposed foreign coach remains an issue for another day.

This would certainly not be a guaranteed solution, and indeed, perhaps turning to an ex-international, emulating the Super Eagles with Sunday Oliseh, might avoid any further controversies and disharmony down the line.

Until then, the promise of 2014 has been shattered, as the Falcons remain far from the pinnacle of the women’s game.