By Ayodele Ayobami
TO be Nigerian is to live with football.Here, you do not have to be a fan of football to know football; you just have to be here. With this in mind, it is surprising how relatively little the attention directed at Nigerian football is. What is less surprising is the misguided general disregard for Nigerian women’s football.
Consider Mercy Akide, a former player for the Nigeria women’s national football team. This tall, impressively built player couldn’t hope to avoid attention in any team (male or female). Nicknamed “Marvelous”, she played the game in the most exciting style possible, she played to score goals. On the field she was all attack, always a dangerous presence. She was constantly monitored by the opposing team, and for good reason. Akide was frequently responsible for the team’s victory, and remains today the Super Falcon’s highest goal scorer.
Sadly, the Super Falcons never won the women’s world cup during and after her time. But this does not mean Akide has lost her chance forever. As some players are wont to do after retirement, she has taken up a coaching career and has stated her interest in coaching the women’s national team. Perhaps if Nigerians are lucky, she actually might.
It should be considered a shame that a country that rears female footballers every bit as impressive as their male counterparts pay them so little attention. It should be considered a shame but it isn’t, because of how rarely it is considered.
The first ever CAF women’s player of the year, a two-time FIFA World All-star, a FIFA Ambassador for Women Football and so much more. She is perhaps the most accomplished female footballer on the continent, yet receives a mere fraction of her deserved recognition.