The Falconets, Nigeria's female under-20 soccer team narrowly lost to Germany in the final of the just concluded FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup finals in Montreal Canada 2014 (0-1). The very skillful and high-spirited Nigerians outplayed their German opponents in almost all aspects of the game (see full-time Score-sheet below), from ball possession, shots at goal, to chances created. It was not to be Nigeria's day as all their attempts to convert any of their numerous scoring chances to a goal came to no avail.
In extra-time Germany pounced on an opportunity and scored the winning goal, thus ending Nigeria's spirited drive to win the trophy. The Nigerians entered the finals in high spirits after trashing North Korea (DPR) 6-2 at the semi-finals, while Germany beat France 2-1 at the semi-finals. This is Germany's 3rd FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, two of them at the expense of Nigeria.
Though the heart-broken Nigerians wanted to win it all, there is some consolation in the fact that the teams top-scorer, Asisat Oshoala won both the Adidas Golden Boot and Adidas Golden Ball awards. Yet the greatest consolation should lie in the fact that they made Nigerians and Africans proud by their spirited performance. We salute the achievements of the Coach Peter Dedevbo and Captain Ebere Okoye led team.
Firstly, most of Nigeria's success in international tournaments (especially soccer) going back to 1985 when the Captain Nduka Ugbade led U-17 Golden Eaglets won the FIFA world trophy, were achieved when less noises were made prior to the competition. Most people only knew of the successes after the tournaments. Certain essential factors in these junior winning teams dissipate or become lacking at the senior levels. Example, the winning teams got little or no government delegations distracting or meddling with the teams. Neither the coaches, nor the players demanded any ransom for appearing or before appearing in matches. The teams were more patriotic, focused, humble and loyal to the country not their professional teams abroad. They strongly desired to make the country proud. If we must win at the senior and other levels, both coaches/managers and players must imbibe these tenets of patriotism, zeal to win, humility, and loyalty to country. However, to encourage the efforts of these players and allow them focus and commit to serve, they must be timely compensated for their services. Promises alone are not enough.
Secondly, these players could be groomed to become the future senior players without allowing their disintegration. Other countries like Germany and Argentina create great teams from their youth squads. Nigeria and other African countries can learn and do the same. Above all, the coaches and management of these teams at the junior level must be recognized for their efforts and encouraged to do more. They need not be moved to senior levels as certain coaches/managers are better in grooming talents and nurturing them to greater heights. There is no need changing a system that works.
Finally, Nigeria's superlative performance at the 2014 U-20 FIFA Women's World cup finals may have been under-reported (God knows why), yet many Nigerians and Africans in general feel proud and uplifted despite the heart-breaking loss. Our praise and congratulations go out to these able ambassadors of Nigeria and Africa.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Oliver Oscar Mbamara is an attorney, a published writer, poet, and award winning actor and filmmaker. For more on Oliver Oscar Mbamara, please visit www.OliverMbamara.com
*Pictures source - FIFA.com