Updated: Feb 14, 2021
Just as Super Falcons fans celebrated the resumption of women’s football, a major issue is threatening to cast a dark cloud over the team freshly assembled by new Head Coach American Randy Waldrum. This is of the exclusion of erstwhile captain of the team Desire Oparanozie. Footballers get excluded from lists for international assignments from time to time so why all the fuss about the exclusion of Oparanozie? It is believed that the bigwigs of the NFF are holding a grudge against the 27 year old striker for fronting a protest against the football authorities at the 2019 world cup over unpaid wages. However NFF’s director of communications Ademola Olajire quickly took to the BBC to rubbish such speculations. “Oparanozie is still part of the team’s plans and her non-inclusion has nothing to do with that protest in France because she was not the only one involved,” said Mr Olajire. But, if that is the case, it baffles me why a striker who has scored 2 goals and provided 4 assists in 9 games in the French top flight would be excluded from the Super Falcons team to Turkey.
Some of the players on the list haven’t performed as well as Oparanozie in club football this season. It is poignant though that an ex-player like Sunday Oliseh who himself was expunged from the national team under similar circumstances after the 2002 Afcon would be the leading voice of disgust at the situation of Oparanozie. I guess if someone can appreciate what Oparanozie might be going through, it would be Oliseh. However, in his case, his exclusion from the Super Eagles proved to be permanent. But, is there a route back for Oparanozie? “She (Oparanozie) remains an important member of the women’s national side. I think she will just have to keep working on her game and, if she gets the opportunity, then push for a consistent selection,” said the NFF media officer. Whilst many observers would regard that statement as just superficial from the NFF, I think it signals hope of a possible return to the Super Falcons for Oparanozie. I remember in 2016 when Francisca Ordega and several Super Falcons players went on strike in Abuja over unpaid wages shortly after winning the Afcon, they made their way back to subsequent squads despite rumours that the NFF would blacklist them. In fact, back then as in now, the Glass House moved to release a statement quelling such rumours. So, I pray Oparanozie is welcomed back to the fold sooner rather than later. Players should not be blacklisted for fighting for their rights. It does not make the NFF look great and is a poor advertisement of Nigerian football. In 2016, the NFF said: “To say that the NFF is planning to ban some of the female players and coaches for life (for going on strike) is out of it.” It is now time they practice what they preached. Copyright Notice © : unauthorised use of this material is strictly prohibited