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Celebrating Falconets in absence of nothing

Published by Guardian on Tue, 28 Aug 2012

WITH the ghost of Team Nigeria's woeful outing at the London Olympics still hunting top officials of the National Sports Commission (NSC), the Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi, wants any colour of medal to pacify President Goodluck Jonathan that all is well in the sports sector.Besides the NSC, the Aminu Maigari-led Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), which has recorded the worst performance in terms of result in the history of Nigerian football, will stop at nothing in clapping for the women U-20 team (Falconets).The Nigerian girls had an easy passage to the quarter-finals of the ongoing Japan 2012 FIFA U-20 Women World Cup on Sunday, brushing aside a hapless Italy 4-0 in their last group match in Kobe.The Nigerian team, led by coaches Edwin Okon and Florence Omagbemi, is parading recycled players in the tournament, an action seen as a direct opposite of a directive given recently by the NFF boss.Maigari had warned handlers of the various youth teams that his administration would not tolerate what he called 'recycling' of players in junior competitions. That was shortly after the coach of the male U-20 team, John Obuh, listed five former members of the team for an African qualifying match against Tanzania.However, many followers of women football in the country were taken aback when Maigari turned blind eye to the list of players picked by Okon for the FIFA U-20 Women World Cup, despite the fact that the team is laced with recycled players, including Rivers Angels' top striker, Ebere Orji, who is attending her fourth youth championship at FIFA level.Orji made her youth career in 2008, when she was included in the national U-17 team to the FIFA U-17 Championship in New Zealand. She went on to feature in two FIFA U-20 Championships - Chile 2008 and Germany 2010. She was moved to the senior national team (Super Falcons), which played in last year's FIFA Women World Cup held in Germany.Other recycled players in the Falconets team in Japan are Gloria Ofoegbu (Rivers Angels), (Uchechi Sunday (Rivers Angels), Esther Sunday (Sunshine Queens), Desire Oparanozie (Delta Queens) and Blessing Edoho (Pelican Stars).In Sunday's last group game against Italy, the match commentator kept refereeing to the Falconets as 'veterans,' which did not go down well with some football analysts back home. Sports analyst, Ejiro Omonode, asked shortly after the game, 'how come the commentator kept referring to our girls as veterans each time they kicked the ball''For the sports minister, however, the girls have to go all the way to the final of the competition and bring the Cup home. Abdullahi, who congratulated the Falconets for the decisive 4-0 win over the Italians, said he was impressed with the form of the girls.'They were disciplined, tactical and very exciting to watch. I have no doubt that if they maintain their current form, no team can stop them,' he had said.The minister singled out Nigeria's three-goal heroine, Francisca Ordega,for special praise, stating that she was excellent and precise in front of goal, adding: 'She definitely has a great future.'Abdullahi also commended the technical crew for its effort and assured the team of the support of all Nigerians.
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