Super Falcons forced Olympic champions, Canada to a 2-2 draw at home in a top friendly game ahead of the African Women Cup of Nations in Morocco.
The Nigerians had looked disjointed and spent when Canada hit them 2-0 a few days before the impressive draw.
With more players turning up in camp and players having more days to rest and take in plans and systems, the second game was a far better display.
As the team prepared to take on Canada, a foul whiff took the Nigerian social media space as issues of a change in captaincy of the Super Falcons emerged.
Barcelona attacker and poster girl of women’s football in the country, Asisat Oshoala was reportedly stripped off her armband with a new captain in former skipper, FC Minsk’s Onome Ebi.
This decision, believed to be taken by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), in agreement with the team’s coach, Randy Waldrum didn’t sit well with Oshoala.
The former Arsenal Ladies attacker went on a social media tirade, rained insults on Ebi with subtleties every discerning mind would know was directed towards the veteran defender.
While these were uncalled for, especially considering Oshoala’s status in Nigerian and African football, they weren’t strange reactions.
Ebi, who must have seen these posts completely ignored them in a manner that crowns her as the more mature person and a good leader. A veteran of five World Cups, and multiple AWCON successes, she’s seen it all with the team and has been part and parcel of the struggle.
@EBIONOME – your leadership, your talent, your heart, your fierce pride in your teammates and country make you an exceptional player, and more importantly, and exceptional person! Pleasure working with the @NGSuper_Falcons this week in Canada.
— Footy_Coach_Canada (@hc_footy) April 13, 2022
Oshoala is by far the most special female talent Nigeria has seen in years and her four African Player of the Year awards are an excellent judgement of her greatness. However, it takes more than a special talent to rule a continent or the world. A tree never makes a forest, and Oshoala in this case, is a very limited tree.
African football is rapidly advancing and teams are getting better. A crystal reality of this was seen at the Aisha Buhari Cup where South Africa defeated Nigeria 4-2 and outclassed, outpaced and outwitted the Super Falcons.
For three years, Oshoala has looked a distant shadow of herself in a Super Falcons shirt. The first signs of this lethargy and soulless performances from the Barcelona Femeni star were first noticed at the 2019 World Cup in France.
What Nigerians and the world saw at that tournament was a player who could do a lot better and the bitter seeds of discord were planted from that tournament.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics debacle and the removal of Desire Oparanozie as skipper was another major downtime in the unity of the team.
Oparanozie stood for a cause that was impressive and courageous and the least she’d have gotten was support from her teammates. Her gallantry and boldness cost her a place in the team for long months and also made her lose her captaincy.
Oshoala replaced Oparanozie and the team never managed to be one. After losing in the Olympics qualifiers against Ivory Coast, it was evident that the team was cracking within and something drastic needed to be done.
The appointment of Waldrum has done a lot to steady the floundering ship, as many foreign-born players, a lot of whom are no parts of these discordant tunes in the team, have continued to feed on the energy of representing their national team.
Their passion has been unrivaled and this is helping the Super Falcons identify themselves again. What Nigerians saw against Canada was an early result of slow and steady work.
While Oshoala remains an important player by every means, the team can depend on her less. Rather than go into every game expecting individuals to make a glowing difference, the team can fight as one and play to win.
She was brilliant both games for us! So proud of her and the team! https://t.co/pcwpdXlgkf
— RWaldrum (@RWSuperFalcons) April 12, 2022
Ife was fantastic both games! https://t.co/go88N7Si3W
— Randy Waldrum (@CoachWaldrum) April 12, 2022
Young players in the team like Chiamaka Nnadozie, Uchenna Kanu, Rasheedat Ajibade, Mitchelle Alozie, Gift Monday and others can feed on the rich experience of veteran Ebi, other mainstays and long-term regulars in the team – Rita Chikwelu, Ngozi Okobi, Oshoala, Francesca Ordega, Tochukwu Oluehi.
If these positive spirits come together and everyone plays for the other, and the team moves in a direction, the Super Falcons’ limit is boundless.
The more senior members of the team, born and bred in Nigeria have a big role to play in making the moment count. There’s a positive eye on female football in the world, and Nigeria must milk that growth too. They must foster unity, settle every existing problem and take on the world together.
They also have the responsibility of constantly reminding the foreign-born players of the level of expectations and place of the Super Falcons in African football. The team is not short of quality, energy and experience.
There’s enough in there to cause a stir even in the biggest jars, but waters will hardly shake if togetherness is not achieved.