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Nigerian Queens conquer Africa
by Amin George Forji
2006-11-16 09:35:54
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An old adage says: In the Land of the Blind, the One Eyed Man Is King. This could have been written for the Super Falcons, the Nigerian female football side. They have dominated the female version of the African Nations Cup, known as the African Women’s Championship (AWC), since its inception in 2001.

They have won all five titles so far, with their latest title coming on November 11th in the southern town of Warri, Nigeria, following a 1-0 victory over the Black Stars of Ghana. Nevertheless, the Super Falcons are still to create any impact at an international level, despite their consistent African displays of brilliance.

Ghana dominated the early minutes of the game, with Anita Amankwa, their prolific striker, coming close to breaking the deadlock after the ninth minute. In a face to face with the Nigerian keeper, Precious Dede, her shot went wide over the goal post after collecting a pass from midfield colleague, Adjoa Bayor.

Threatened, the Super Falcons made two immediate counter-attacks, with the second paying off. Almost, without doubt, the reigning female African player of the year, Perpetua Nkwocha, had the answer to Ghana’s threats, which came in the form of a decisive 14th minute goal, after collecting a cross from fellow striker, Ifeanyi Chijiene.

The estimated 25,000 spectators went mad with joy, cheering at every subsequent touch of the Super Falcons. Nigeria maintained the score until full time. Ghana’s most glaring chance was in the 35th minute when Lydia Ankrah created panic among the Nigerian side, but ended up shooting wide.

During the second half, the Nigerian side played a rather defensive match, in fear of taking any unnecessary risks. Ghana made several advances into the Falcons' box, but, as became a custom, they blundered one good opportunity after another. Both teams have now qualified for the Female World Cup in September 2007. South Africa won third place after beating Cameroon 5-4 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 deadlock.

Female football is still a novelty in Africa, with just a handful of countries having any kind of league. Many others still consider it a game reserved for men. During a news conference in Warri ahead of the final game between Nigeria and Ghana, Cameroon-born CAF President Issa Hayatou lamented this to be a major obstacle of the progress of the game in the continent.

He said that he intended proposing a continental championship, but from the face of things this would be an impossibility because it will involve just a handful of countries, "Apart from countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa, Ghana and perhaps one or two more, there is no other country with an organized league for female soccer. That is the problem…Female football would have grown bigger in our continent, but for this fact. You can’t have a Champions League with only four countries taking part."

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