There’s a fine line between confident and complacency that it can easily be reversed and remain unnoticed.
Super Falcons may have progressed to the final of this year’s Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Ghana, but not before they were made to understand that Women’s football in Africa is no longer all about Nigeria. Perhaps not just Nigeria, but that is what most failed to realize until the final four paired familiar faces: Cameroon and South Africa, two other nations who have reached the semi-finals in each of the past six editions of the biannual tournament.
Both sides always finding it difficult to get one over Nigeria, failing time and again at the final hurdle. In that time, Cameroon lost three finals to Nigeria, painful defeats. The worst came two years ago in front of a sellout crowd in Yaounde, and despite playing poorly, the Super Falcons conjured a narrow 1-0 win to silence the vociferous Cameroonian crowd four minutes from time.
As the Super Falcons won that tenth continental title, a sudden aura of invincibility was unleashed. No one remembered how cagey performances were any more, instead, expectations grew from fans, media, and even the NFF, but the purse of the federation shrunk.
The Federation leadership battled political and legal ‘opposition’ and fought valiantly to be recognized by the sports ministry too, a long battle that continued till the summer of 2018, disrupting their capacity to generate revenue – depending on who you choose to believe.
Priorities changed. With the fate of the federation leadership hanging by a thread, the focus was immediately turned to the Super Eagles. The decision meant that the Super Falcons will bear the brunt of the actions or in this case, inactions of the NFF.
Out went title-winning coach Florence Omagbemi, and the Champions didn’t gather again until after 12 months had passed. An absolute nonsense that cannot be excused, but these scenarios are always explained away in Nigeria.
As expectations grew, so did the level of complacency. The feeling of invincibility which should naturally inspire became a curse.
With the pre-tournament favorites’ tag intact, they have huffed and puffed their way into the final. South Africa and Cameroon proving too strong to handle but a measure of good fortune has brought the girls thus far.
With qualification for the 2019 FIFA Women’s world cup sealed, attention shifts to the final. South Africa, the only team to have scored against, as well as defeat the Super Falcons over the past two weeks. A second chance at redemption against the best team at this tournament so far who deserves nothing but victory.
That said, you get the feeling that the Super Falcons may well return home with the trophy, but this tournament is a rude awakening that Women’s football has caught up with a stagnant nation.