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‘Playing For Nigeria Is A Privilege, Honour’

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Not every footballer that has played for Nigeria see playing for the country as a privilege talk more of an honour. In fact, many Nigerians, both at home and in diaspora regard wearing the national colours and representing the country as doing a favour to Nigeria.
Often times, many would want to be wooed, lobbied or even begged to play for Nigeria, while some, after getting the opportunity would try to hold the country to ransom or give conditions at the slightest opportunity.
However, an ex-international and prominent member of the pioneer national women football team, Super Falcons, particularly, the famours class of ’99Mavis Ogun has declared that playing for and representing one’s country is not only a privilege but an honour for the player.
In a chat with Tidesports recently, Mavis, who played for the Super Falcons between 1991 and 1999, attended three world cup tournaments and played professional football in Europe said that, “it is a privilege to have played for Nigeria, it is an honour that one should appreciate, that out of millions of Nigerians, one is chosen to represent the country. I am proud to be one of the pioneers for the Super Falcons”.
Mavis, who hails from Tofari in Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State was born in Lagos and raised in Warri, Delta State, she was also raised in Rivers State after having her secondary school at the Prestigious Girls Secondary School, Finima, Bonny.
She cut her football teeth with Rivers Angels Football Club of Port Harcourt before teaming up with Ufuoma Babes of Warri, one of the top four and pioneer female football clubs in Nigeria.
Having joined the first set of national team players in the early days of women football in Africa, Mavis was part of the Super Falcons team that dominated Africa and flew the country and continent’s flags at successive world cup tournaments.
Her set was dominant in the continent, winning the African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) back-to-back-to-back nine times. She was in the famous 1999 set that got to the quarter final stage of the women’s World Cup in USA, a feat no other set of the falcons has attained till date.
She is currently based in the United States of America where she is engaged in the health sector in New York. She obtained her first degree at the Delta State University, Abraka, played professional football with German clubs, Wolfsburg and Postdarm Fcs before quitting active football in 2003.
Only a couple of weeks ago, the Super Falcons’ 1999 set was reunited in Nigeria when the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, for the first time officially recognised and hosted members of the Super Falcons team that was the pride of Nigeria at their time. The occasion was the Nigeria Football Federation’s Aiteo/NFF Awards ceremony 2021 in Lagos.
The Falcons’ class of ’99 was honoured by the federation for what they achieved for the country. According to the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, the 1999 set, which had the likes of Rita Nwadike, Stella Mbachu, Mercy Akide, Florence Omagbemi, Nkiru Okosiems, Patience Avre, Maureen Madu, Prisca Emeafu, Eberechi Opara, Kikelomo Ajayi, Adanna Nwaneri, Martha Tarhemba, Yinka Kudaisi, Gloria Usieta, Florence Iweta, late Ifeanyi Chiejine, Ann Chiegine and Judith Chime, were not only heroes but legends of the game in Nigeria and Africa.
“The performance of the 1999 class of Super Falcons at the 1999 world cup in USA remains stated in the memory and it is important that we honour them with a special recognition award,” said Pinnick, days before the ceremony.
At the world cup, the Falcons had beaten North Korea 2-1 before losing 1-7 to USA, despite scoring first in the match.
After the loss, however, the Falcons regrouped and beat Denmark 2-0 to qualify for the quarter final. It was the first time that the women world cup would be expanded to 16 teams.
In the quarter finals at the Jack Kent Cooke stadium near Washington DC, the Falcons stormed back from three goals down in the first half to Brazil to tie the game 3-3, with goals from Prisca Emeafu, Nkiru Okosieme and Nkechi Egbe. They however, lost in extra-time after 104 minutes, in what was the very first time a women’s competitive game was decided by the golden goal rules.
Reacting to the honour and recognition accorded the class of ’99 of the Super Falcons by the NFF, Mavis was grateful.
“To be recognised and honoured for an achievement is great”, said Mavis. “That the highest point of any career, to be appreciated. It took 22 years for us to be recongnised and appreciated, we are grateful that it happened. The present leadership of NFF has done well, I am happy and grateful that at last, I and my colleagues have been shown appreciation, our records are yet to be matched.”
On her personal feeling on the night of the ceremony, she said, “that’s the best thing that has happened to me, to be together once again with my team mates, it was as if we had never parted, the feeling and memories of the past were too much as we had the opportunity to go down the memory lane again.”
Despite having been living in the United States for more than 20 years now, Mavis still has huge attachment and fond memories of Nigeria. According to her, “I love Nigeria and would remain grateful to the country. If you chose to go by what you see and hear in the social media, you wouldn’t want to come back to the country, but I am happy to be Nigerian and to be home.”
The defender, known for her robust style of play in her days said that she would readily relive her life as a footballer and harbours no regrets for being a footballer and playing for Nigeria. In fact, she expressed readiness to encourage any of her children, male or female to play football to the highest level and represent the country.
“I am proud to be a footballer and one of the pioneers of Super Falcons. I’ll not only encourage my daughter or son to play football, I’ll support them to play and play for Nigeria, the national colours are very precious.”
Unfortunately, Mavis and her class of ’99 were on the front row seats to witness the recent beating the Super Falcons suffered in the hands of the Banyana Banyana of South Africa. The South Africa beat Nigeria 4-2 to win the maiden Aisha Buhari Cup in Lagos, a couple of weeks ago.
For Mavis, the result and Falcons’ performance were unacceptable. “In our time, no team in Africa could come close, it was so sad that South Africa beat us 4-2 in our own backyard and I was groaning on my seat watching the game and felt like jumping into the field.”
On what has changed from her time and the present Falcons, Mavis said, “For us then, our passion was key. The zeal, dedication, discipline and devotion to hardwork were second to none. The national jersey meant more than money.”
She feels that most of the present crop of players, though talented, lack passion, fighting spirit and discipline. “I think that now they have become professionals and earn more money, they have grown lazy and have less passion,” she said.
She called on the Super Falcons and indeed all women footballers in the country to be committed, train hard, observe discipline and work hard in order to lift and sustain the level of the game. It is her position that after leading women football in Africa for so long, Nigeria cannot afford to play second fiddle to any country, especially within the continent.
She advised that the national team handlers should always ensure timely preparation, particularly camping, good programming and quality coaching in order to ensure that the game does not suffer downward trend in the country.
She believes that concerted efforts should be made to further develop the local leagues for good organisation and efficiency, which would in turn rub off on the home based players.
On the usual arguments over foreign and local coaches, foreign and home-based players, Mavis said that what is paramount for success is good preparation, good selection and blending of players and sound programming ahead of any competition.
“There’s nothing wrong in depending on professionals if they are good enough, but astute blending of local and foreign-based professionals will yield the needed result.”
Former players, she believes, should have one or two roles or contributions to make in the national teams. Perhaps, that is why she expressed happiness over the NFF’s President’s hint at the awards ceremony of the federation’s readiness to work with the ex-players.
“We’re happy that Pinnick wants to work with our set and bring us close to the national team. We’re still a family after 22years and I and others will want to contribute to the national team if given the chance,” she stated.

By: Gabriel Nwanetanya

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Ilechukwu Set To Make History With Plateau United

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Plateau United coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu, says his side is all set for the start of 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football League season and he hopes to make history with the club.
The season’s resumption date which has been fixed for December 17, is set to be ratified by the league management company on December 7 at its general assembly in Abuja.
According to the fixtures released and made available to Tidesports source, Plateau United is billed to face newcomers Niger Tornadoes away from home.
Tidesports source reports that Ilechukwu, who joined the team during the transfer window from Heartland FC would be hoping to start the season in an impressive fashion.
“We are prepared, the players are doing fine and we can’t wait for the season,” Ilechukwu said.
“The players are well motivated and all they want to do is go out there and give their all.”
Other matchday one fixtures to be played across the federation will see champions, Akwa United, tackle Kano Pillars, Enyimba slugs it out with Abia Warriors in a derby, Lobi Stars will entertain Rivers United while there will be a battle of newcomers between Gombe United and Shooting Stars.
Enugu Rangers will travel to face Katsina United in their season’s opener. Sunshine Stars play Wikki Tourists, Kwara United vs Dakkada, Heartland vs Nasarawa United, while there’ll be an early Southwest derby between MFM FC and Remo Stars in Lagos.

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ph City Marathon: Athletes, Collect Participation Number Morrow

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The Chief Organiser of Port Harcourt City Marathon, Goodluck Azunwena, has expressed satisfaction over the reactions of people and number of athletes that registered for the competition.
He revealed that collection of athlete’s participation number  would take place tomorrow, at Las Mall, Rumukalagbor, in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area.
Azunwena said this in a telephone interview with Tidesports, yesterday, saying that the basic aim is to engage the youth meaningfully and change the negative perception of the State.
According to him, “Port Harcourt to the World,” the organization that is organising competition had organised other events that have positive impact on the people, particularly in 2018, they organized what was called Music Ran Port Harcourt.
“This organization was established in 2016 with the sole aim to promote the city positively and encourage people to change the negative perception of the city in and outside the state.
So far I am impressed with people’s reactions towards the competition and  number of athletes that registered for the event,” Azunwena said.
Meanwhile, the 16 kilo meter race is scheduled to take place next Saturday in Port Harcourt, the winner of the competition will go home with N1 million, as second and third positionswill cart away N500,000 and N250, 000, respectively.
While fourth to ten position will have consolation prize of N50,000 each.

By: Tonye Orabere

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Nnadozie’s Rating As World’s Seventh Best  Thrills  Izilien

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Former Coach of Super Falcons, Godwin Izilien, has described Chiamaka Nnadozie’s ranking as the world’s seventh best woman goalkeeper as a clear indication that Nigeria has abundant talented female footballers at the grassroots waiting to be discovered.
Izilien, who commended the Paris of France FC goaltender for putting Nigeria on the world map in women football, urged stakeholders in the ladies’ game to pay more attention to talent discovery, stressing that discovering and nurturing women players when they are still young will raise the country’s standard in the game.
“I am delighted on the news that Nnadozie has been rated the seventh best goalkeeper in the world. This is a remarkable achievement for the young lady, who started her football career in Nigeria.
“She played for the cadet teams and Nigerian clubs before moving abroad. I have said it before that Nigeria has talents in women football… all they need is to be discovered and exposed.
“Nnadozie’s achievement is a clear testimony that a player can be discovered in Nigeria and be among the best in the world when given the right exposure. Football stakeholders should leverage her achievements to look more to grassroots football development.
“Getting young talents from the grassroots remains the direction to develop women’s football in Nigeria,” he said.
Tidesports source reports that Nnadozie was selected among the best in the goalkeeping position by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS).
The rankings of the women goalkeepers were for an aggregate of 2021 taking into consideration performances for their club and country.
The ex Rivers Angels goalkeeper, who made her debut for Nigeria at the Jordan U-17 Women’s World Cup also in 2019, became the youngest goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet at the Women’s World Cup.
Nnadozie also helped Nigeria to win gold medal at the African Games in Morocco, saving three penalties in the shootout against Cameroun.

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