…As Falcons end AWC empty-handed
Nigeria lost the chance to salvage parts of her lost pride after she lost third place at the African Women’s championship to Cameroon yesterday. The sorry Falcons fell 1-0 to a 31st minute strike by Gaelle Enganamouit to finish their worst-ever AWC in the fourth place. The Lionesses outplayed six-time champion, Nigeria, to avenge a 2-1 defeat in the group stage of the tournament. Cameroon also eliminated Nigeria from the 2012 London Olympics qualifiers.
The Falcons were due back in the country yesterday as the future of Coach Kadiri Ikhana is uncertain. The final of the 2012 AWC is between host, Equatorial Guinea and Bayana Bayana of South Africa. In 14 years of the African Women Championship, the Super Falcons had won all editions but one. The only one they lost, in 2008, was the only edition staged in Equatorial Guinea before this year’s. Then, the Falcons had lost 0-1 to the host nation in most hostile circumstances, with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) protesting the conduct of the match officials. In football, as in any other sport, the least you expect in battle is fairness in the rules of engagement.
The setting in Equatorial Guinea, this time, was not much different, as regards officiating. After the first match against Cameroon, in which the referee inexplicably disallowed a good goal alongside several other questionable calls, I had told a few NFF members that our girls had to step up their game and play very well to be able to retain their title. While conspiracy theories may not have taken firm roots in our minds after that first match, the game against Ethiopia showed clearly that the officials had their ideas of what the rules should be (particularly against defending champion). , or they simply wanted a new champion.