The FIFA Under-20 female World cup is yet to be concluded, but Nigeria is already home after a painful 2-0 loss to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
Nonetheless, as agreed in many quarters, the Super Falconets did well, especially after they shocked France in their first game of the tournament. Still, with the quality inherent in the side, many would feel that they could have done better if they were under a better tutor.
Respect should be given to the Under-20 female team coach Christopher Danjuma as he has been a consistent and persistent name in women’s football in Nigeria. However, considering the recent trends in female football, the Nigeria Football Federation should be planning on doing things differently.
For one, the rest of Africa seem to be creeping up on Nigeria. The once humongous and daunting gap between the Super Falcons and other African Nations is now nothing but a thin line, and it was made evident at the last WAFCON where Nigeria finished fourth.
Fortunately for Nigeria, churning out the talent has not really been a difficult issue. But training the talents to become well-rounded footballers has been the major bane. That is why Nigeria would always dominate in Africa, and falter on the world stage.
But the NFF has stuck to its guns- hiring, firing, and re-hiring.
The South African model
South Africa beat Nigeria on the road to their triumph at the last African Women’s championship. And a critical and studious inquiry into their female football system shows that it was not a coincidence. Rather, it was through logical and deliberate planning.
All South African female teams are coached by ex-internationals who are knowledgeable of the round leather game.
Siphiwe Dludlu handles the Under-17 team. But she was not just given the job because of her over 60 caps for the Banyana Banyana, Dludlu is already a UEFA-licensed coach.
At Under-20 is Jabulile Baloyi, while the legendary Desiree Ellis calls the shots at senior level.
Ellis’s appointment as National team coach was a deviation from the norm. In fact, it was a master plan.
She was first appointed as assistant to Vera Pauw, who spent two years with the female team. Ellis was appointed as interim coach in 2016 before getting the job full-time in 2018.
Since her appointment, the South African female team has reached heights that they previously struggled to attain. With her in charge, they qualified for their maiden World Cup, they made the WAFCON finals twice, losing one narrowly and winning the other.
Nigerian women can coach too
Nigeria’s case is absolutely different. Bankole Olowookere nurtures the Flamingoes, Christopher Danjuma coaches the Falconets, while Randy Waldrum tends to the Falcons.
None of these coaches has played for the Super Falcons, of course, because they are all men. It causes one to wonder if Nigeria is bereft of female coaches.
However, it is not the case, as a lot of female ex-internationals are doing good for themselves.
In fact, in the last thirty years, only two women have coached the Super Falcons, and they brought home the WAFCON- just as the men have done.
Uche Eucharia, who won the WAFCON in 2010 was the first to have a bitter pill of the federation’s impatience.
Retired Super Falcons striker Florence Omagbemi was the last woman to coach the Super Falcons, and she won the 2018 WAFCON. Unfortunately, she was unceremoniously sacked.
Current coach Randy Waldrum has been referred to as a “school team” coach in many quarters because prior to his job with Nigeria, he had only coached University teams.
In the end, the result was laid bare at the last WAFCON where Nigeria finished without a medal.
Former Super Falcons stars have similar qualifications as Waldrum. Perpetua Nkwocha coaches Clemensnäs IF in Sweden.
There is also Mercy Akide who has a similar CV as Waldrum. She has coached in the US.
Even Precious Dede is a goalkeeper coach in the India U-17 team.
Still, despite the number of ex-internationals that have taken to coaching, none has been employed for the big jobs.
Most of these ex-internationals have played at the highest level, as such, they have good knowledge of game situations.
Also, most of the present female players look up to these retired stars-turned-coaches. As such it would be easier for them to get into the heads of the girls.
South African female football has grown in leaps and bounds by employing ex-internationals. The Football Federation has to do something different, else, the events of the 2022 WAFCON where Nigeria finished without a medal could become a regular occurrence.