Super Falcons Job: Omagbemi Deserves Better

There should be a reaction from the Nigeria Football Federation, or from the office of Amaju Pinnick, the President of the NFF. But that reaction, should it come, would be just a courteous gesture and at the pleasure of the Federation, or Pinnick as the case may be.

That is, a reaction to the story that Florence Omagbemi, the former skipper of the Nigeria Women’s National team, the Super Falcons, and the coach that led them to victory at the 2016 edition of the African Women’s Championship in Cameroon, was asked by the NFF to relocate back to Nigeria if she wants the job of assistant coach in the same team.

The NFF, and Pinnick, can argue that they don’t owe Omagbemi or Nigerians any explanation since the story (that led to this write up) is a product of quotes from “source close to Omagbemi’s family” according to The Guardian. The deniability is high, unless of course someone from the NFF or Omagbemi herself would be willing to go on record that the conversation of the job offer did take place.

But the odds of getting Omagbemi to go on record are not very high; the former Pelican Stars of Calabar midfielder and five-time winner of the African Women’s Championship has never been a woman of many words, she is very shy and would rather keep her affairs private. That was why she never made the issue of her being owed several months’ salary public, when she was coach of the team.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves; there is one other matter to consider before an examination of the right or wrong of the offer is put under consideration.

The NFF and Amaju Pinnick owe Omagbemi an apology. The unsavory incidents following the victory of the Falcons in Cameroon marked another unfortunate milestone in the history of Women’s Football in Nigeria. Sadly, it wasn’t the first time, neither was it the last. And as it was in the previous NFF regimes, the coach – this time Omagbemi, was left to carry the can. That is despite the fact that she returned from Cameroon and went straight home to attend to the funeral rites of her father. The NFF would first need to apologize for the way Omagbemi was treated, before any other discussion should take place; but of course, that apology may never come.

Now, if it is true that the conversation about the offer of work as assistant coach did take place, there are other matters:

It is utterly disrespectful, and it is condescending to offer a coach that had done as well as any who had occupied the position, the work of an assistant. This because she likely to be working under someone who may not have done as well, or who at best, would be at her level. The offer of assistant may have looked less undignified, if the NFF had named a coach that is well known in Women’s Football circles, who is far superior to Omagbemi, and then ask if she wants the job as an assistant. Then she would be in a position to weigh the pros and cons of acceptance. The offer is like handing someone who has an account with an account expecting an unknown inflow a blank cheque and telling them to append a signature

The offer does not look sincere. Even if she overlooks the disrespect of being an assistant, how does one explain the condition of relocation away? While all the contract offers to foreign coaches include the clause that they will reside in Nigeria, none has ever been asked to relocate. Was this condition included because she’s Nigerian? Or is there another motive behind it? Let’s even forget the mammoth logistics that would be involved: is she expected to abandon her work and life in the United States to sit around and twiddle her toes? Because: it is not yet clear what we want to do with the Women’s League, and the national team job is seasonal.

Finally, and on a lighter note:  if it’s true that the NFF has short-listed “three Americans and two Europeans” maybe they are missing something, because the last time we checked, Omagbemi holds a dual citizenship – she’s also American. And for the NFF in search of a ‘foreign coach’ that is something to consider.

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