Bambanani Mbane of South Africa challenges Ugochi Desire Oparanozie of Nigeria during the Women Africa Cup of Nations match between Nigeria and South Africa 29 November 2016 at Limbe Omnisports Stadium. PHOTO: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix
As the Super Falcons face the host nation, Lionesses of Cameroun in the final of the 10th African Women Nations Cup tomorrow in Yaounde, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has told the players not to be intimidated by the level of home support for the opponent. The federation has also pledged to settle the team’s entitlements as soon as possible.
The Falcons have defeated the Lionesses on three occasions, including the final of the last edition of the championship in Windhoek, Namibia two yeas ago.
The Nigerians had it all smooth in terms of support from the home crowd till their semifinal clash with the Banyana Banyana of South Africa at the hilltop Omisport Stadium in Limbe. As soon as the Lionesses defeated Ghana Black Queens to qualify for the final in Yaounde, the crowd suddenly turned against the Falcons.
To a majority of the Camerounian fans, taming the Banyana Banyana in the final will be easier for the Lionesses than to beat the Falcons. Throughout the Nigeria versus South African semifinal match on Tuesday, the fans cheered every move of the South Africans and jeered the Falcons. The Nigerians won with a lone goal by Desire Okparanozie.
The Falcons are now in a different zone, the country’s capital, Yaounde, the traditional home ground of the Lionesses. Over 42,000 fans cheered the Camerounians in their semifinal against Ghana, and the number is expected to go higher in tomorrow’s final against Nigeria.
The Nigerian leader of delegation to this championship, NFF Board member and chairman of chairmen, Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau told The Guardian that the Falcons would have it tough playing against the home crowd, but added that he is confident the Nigerians will come out victorious.
“It is obvious the home crowd will be against the Falcons, but I have told our players not to be intimidated. The good thing about the Nigerian team is that they are experienced players who have seen a lot in football. They have survived many games in the face of intimidation and I am confident they will overcome the Camerounians on Saturday.
“We brought this trophy to Cameroun and we have to take it back to Nigeria. I thank the Nigerian community for the support for Super Falcons so far in the competition, but this is the moment the Falcons need them most,” he stated.
On the issue of unpaid wages to players and officials of the Super Falcons, the NFF leader of delegation said: “We are not sleeping because the issue of unpaid allowances and bonuses to the players and their officials gives up great concern. So also the issue of unpaid salaries for the coaches.
It is their entitlement. We are not talking of rewarding them, but their entitlement. We know the economic situation is not helping matters, but we are working round the clock to make sure the team gets what rightfully belongs to them. It will be sorted out soon,” Gusau stated.