A member of the inspection team sent by world football governing body, FIFA, to assess the level of preparedness of Nigeria to host the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup has admitted that while sitting the tournament in Nigeria would help accelerate the development of women’s football on the continent, the decision to approve Nigeria’s bid, “is still far from taken”.
Rhiannon Ceirwen Martin who alongside Christopher Exley, Sara Jane Booth, Kliment Taseski and Heyral Kaj Jurgen is presently in the country on an inspection tour of proposed facilities for the biennial tournament told the media on Tuesday after the team’s inspection of the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, that even though Nigeria – the sole country in the running to host the tournament – has demonstrated a capacity to host FIFA events in the past having played hosts to the U-20 and U-17 World Cups in 1999 and 2009 respectively, nothing has yet been decided in relation to the country’s bid to host a third FIFA tournament and Africa’s first-ever U-20 Women’s World Cup.
“We all know that Nigeria has a massive reputation for growth football,” Ms. Martin said. “We’ve known that since FIFA has hosted events here in 1999 and also 2009 as well.”
“Bringing the women’s tournament here would, obviously, be very good for the development of women’s football in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole as well but we must also say, the decision is still far from taken but we are very happy to be here and look at the great facilities on offer.”
The team which arrived Nigeria via the Murtala Mohammed International Airport on Monday have so far inspected facilities at the Onikan Stadium, Teslim Balogun Stadium, the Legacy Pitch at the National Stadium in Lagos and the University of Lagos Sports Centre all in Lagos before heading out to Benin where they assessed facilities at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium and other facilities in the city.
The inspection team will also assess proposed facilities in Asaba and Uyo on Wednesday before flying to Abuja for a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Speaking about their experience following their inspection of facilities in Lagos, Ms Martin noted the warm welcome extended the team by the Nigeria Football Federation and described her team’s inspection tour of facilities in the state which she said was in “the first stages”, as “intense and productive” and stressed once more that a determination as to Nigeria’s suitability to host the tournament will be made in the coming days.
“We’ve been very happy to be here, very warm welcome from the Nigeria Football Federation and Lagos State as well,” Ms. Martin said.
“We have a very intense but a productive morning having a look at different facilities, stadiums, training sites and also a hospital and yesterday we looked at some of the hotels as well which could potentially host the FIFA Under 20 Women’s World Cup next year.
“We are in the first stages now of the analyses, and obviously, it’s quite a long process and a lot of decisions and discussions will need to be had based on the inspections over the next couple of days.”
Nigeria has an impressive pedigree at the U-20 level and alongside USA, Germany, and Brazil, are one of four teams to have participated in all editions of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup since the tournament was launched in 2002 as a U-19 Championship before it was upgraded to a U-20 event in 2008.
Nigeria’s U-20 women’s team, The Falconets, reached the final of the tournament in 2010 and 2014 where they lost to Germany on both occasions. They also made the last four of the 2012 edition in Japan.