It’s certainly been a forgettable one year for female football in Nigeria. First, the country’s U17 side, known as the Flamingoes, crashed out of the World Cup in Jordan without scoring or winning a single game. This was then followed by their U20 counterparts, who were narrowly eliminated from the World Cup despite winning two games last month in Papua New Guinea.
But on arriving the country from these competitions, both teams were reportedly given a paltry N20,000 and N10,000 respectively by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). Barely one week after, it was the turn of the senior national team who were on a quest to win a record eight African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Cameroon.
Against all odds, the Nigerian ladies triumphed at the competition beating host Cameroon 1-0 in the final. This feat made the Falcons the most successful national team on the continent – surpassing Egypt’s male national team. Also, Florence Omagbemi becomes the only woman to be crowned African champion both as player and coach. However, just like their juniors, the Falcons never knew was awaited them at home.
Arrival in Nigeria
On arrival in Nigeria, the ladies got the shock of their lives as they were told by the authorities to return to their respective clubs as there was no money to pay them. Each player was reportedly owed daily allowances and match bonuses put at more than $16,500. This was aside their outstanding bonuses from the 2016 Olympic qualifier, African championship qualifier and last year’s All-Africa Games.
The Falcons immediately resorted to a sit-in protest at their Abuja base. Despite Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, publicly declaring that the Federal Government never expected the ladies to triumph and NFF boss, Amaju Pinnick, allegedly threatening the ladies, they were still on a mission to get their monies.
“He (Amaju Pinnick) said so many things that angered us, including that he will report us to our clubs if we are bent on disgracing Nigeria,” assistant skipper, Osinachi Ohale, told AFP. “This was not what he was telling us when he addressed us in Abuja before we left for Cameroon.”
As it is the tradition with almost every country after victory at a major competition, it was expected that President Muhammadu Buhari will host the triumphant team who are the most decorated side in Africa. But the reverse was the case with the FG apparently snubbing the ladies. This was more painful considering the fact that the Indomitable Lionesses who were beaten by the Falcons in the final were properly celebrated despite finishing second.
National Assembly protest
With the FG apparently snubbing the ladies who were on the 11th day of their sit-in protest, the Falcons opted to move out to a more public setting and targeted the National Assembly and Aso Villa. This was because some top government officials were expected to be in the legislature for the 2017 budget.
Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, promised the ladies that their grievances will be resolved before 48 hours. This was after the Falcons stormed the Presidential Villa.