The unfolding story of Thomas Dennerby, the Nigeria Football Federation and the national Women’s Soccer Team, the Super Falcons may sound entertaining, and may be delivering amusing sound bites for now; but there are deeper, and far reaching implications to what we are witnessing…
The (constant) focus of the NFF, the Media and the fans has always been the Men’s national team, the Super Eagles. The more decorated Falcons usually come into focused conversation when they win a tournament, or when bonus issues arise. There have been (many) stories surrounding the team, but nothing (concrete) gets to the mainstream media – apart from the usual tales of grouse against the football federation when bonus issues arise…that is, until now.
The current drama may be confirmation that some individuals are indeed interfering in women football matters. It is only a short time ago that the non-inclusion of a Rivers Angels player in a Falcon’s team generated heated debate among media practitioners. The contentious point was that the player was dropped because she was (then) considered “too old”. While the coach and the NFF kept mute on the matter, those in support of her non-inclusion hailed the decision. Meanwhile those against argued that older players were selected. In the midst of this, it filtered out that the player was not dropped for age reasons, and that national team coach, Thomas Dennerby was not the one that made the decision to leave the player out; which meant he wasn’t fully in control of team selections. If indeed the coach hired to train and make team selections wasn’t the one that took the said decision, who did?
***The player has since returned to the national team.
The fact that the Falcons have now seen four captains in the last one year is a clear indication that all is not well with Women’s Football. At the Africa Women’s Championship in 2018, experienced midfielder Rita Chikwelu and veteran defender, Onome Ebi were the captains. At the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France earlier this year, forward Desire Oparanozie was named captain. Now, Barcelona femine forward, Asisat Oshoala has been handed the reins. While the constantly ‘rotating’ captaincy may be unusual, it is not a sin. However, the removal of Oparanozie (in particular) is a pointer to another troubling trait…
Because it may be the confirmation that the non-renewal of Florence Omagbemi’s contract was bonus related. The former Super Falcons skipper molded and led a fractured Falcons team to the 2016 Africa Women’s Championship in Cameroon. However, following their victory, the team rebelled and demanded full payment of their bonuses. Omagbemi was (unofficially) held responsible for the players’ behavior, and as a result, her contract was not renewed. That reason was whispered, but never publicly acknowledged. The removal of Oparanozie as Falcons captain has been tied, unofficially, to her insistence that home-based players be paid their share of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup bonus…like Omagbemi, like Oparanozie?
Of course, no matter how all these finally play out, it is safe to assume that Dennerby cannot be effective as manager of Super Falcons again. His tenure is over. The issues are simple:
- He complained that some officials are messing with his team selections; those officials will still be there, he has called them out. The battle line will be drawn.
- The captain he chose for the team has been unceremoniously removed; what will his move be, if he chooses to return to the team? Restore Oparanozie, stick with Oshoala, or get a neutral (new) captain? Whatever choice he makes, it splits the team…and divides loyalty (to him) in camp.
First it was ‘home boy’, Sunday Oliseh that walked away from the Super Eagles job; now it is Thomas Dennerby, a foreigner. Even if we think Oliseh was wrong to walk away, can the same be said of the second incident? The leadership of the NFF are always quick to claim ‘Global Best Practice’, it must be seen to be at play in the way we handle issues.