REVEALED: Why Rivers Angels Crashed Out of CAF Women’s Champions League

By Harry Awurumibe, Africa’s No.1 Women’s Football Journalist

Not Good Abroad…Nigerian league champions and CAF Women’s Champ.League flops

The elimination of Nigerian women’s football league champions, Rivers Angels Football Club of Port Harcourt from the on-going maiden Confederation of Africa Football  Women’s Champions League (CAFWCL) in Cairo, Egypt is a sad commentary on the current state of women’s football in Nigeria.

Also, Rivers Angels’ exit at the group stage of the competition has left a damaging effect on Nigeria as the most successful women’s football playing nation in Africa if the number of times the senior women’s football team, Super Falcons have won the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) are anything to rely upon.
With an unprecedented 11 times of being the Champions of Africa, including in 1991 and 1995 when the African Women Championship (AWC) was not introduced, Nigeria is truly a force to be reckoned with in women’s football in the continent.
Nigeria was the first country to represent Africa in the maiden Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) U-19 Women’s World Cup final in 2002 in Canada before it became U-20 and also have represented Africa at every FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup final since its introduction in 2008 except in 2018 in Uruguay.

Coach Edwin Okon. ..Disappointed over late arrival of his team to Egypt

Against this backdrop and for the fact that Nigeria started playing organised women’s football league earlier than most of the countries in Africa meant that Nigerian teams, clubs or national, should be finishing on the podium in any women’s football competition in Africa.

But not anymore as many countries in  Africa have caught up with Nigeria and some that could not form women’s  football leagues when the Nigerian league was attractive to many players from other African nations have overtaken Nigeria.
For example, while women’s football league started in Nigeria in 1978,
Morocco whose ASFAR Ladies thrashed Rivers Angels 3-0 in Group B opening match in Egypt started her league in 2001, a clear 23 years ahead of the North Africans.
Also, South Africa from where Rivers Angels conquerors in the second game, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies, started women’s football league in 2009, a difference of 31 years after Rivers Angels have been playing in the Nigerian league just as Vihiga Queens of Kenya came to be after Kenya started women’s football league in 2010.
Only Ghana being  represented by CAFWCL semi finalists, Hasaacas Ladies, started women’s football league alongside Nigeria in the late 1970s even as it is on record that by 1989, Princess Jegede Babes FC of Lagos was playing an annual international club friendly matches with Ghana Postal Ladies FC at the famous Accra Sports Stadium in Accra.
It is therefore very painful to know that a top Nigerian women’s football club and the reigning champions of the league were beaten blue and black by latecomers like Morocco and South African champions.
The crashing of Rivers Angels in Egypt meant that Nigeria’s national flag has been lowered at the competition venues while her   national anthem has also seized to be played at the stadiums. This is where the exit of the Nigerian representatives is more painful for women’s football  enthusiasts especially the pioneers who laboured to midwife its recognition by then Nigeria Football Association (NFA) now NFF in 1990.
Sadly, the elimination of Nigerian Champions in the group stage was avoidable if the club and its sponsors had played their roles well even as the causes of the disgraceful performance of the team are multifaceted.
They include, but not limited, to the state of the Nigerian women’s football league, club management, security challenges, technical deficiencies of the coaching staff and other sundry issues.

Heroine. ..Sanaa Mssuody bagged a hat-trick against hapless Rivers Angels in the 3-0 victory by Morocco

In this first part of the reasons Rivers Angels crashed out of CAFWCL, accusing fingers are pointing at the bungling of the club’s participation by the club management and by extention its sponsor.

Without fear of contradictions, Rivers Angels FC were the architect of their own misfortune as the club arrived the host country, Egypt less than 24 hours to its first match against ASFAR Ladies of Morocco. Expectedly, the club failed to impress in the game as the Moroccans dominated both halves and one player Sanaa Mssoudy scored a hat-trick for Morocco.
Rivers Angels Head Coach Edwin Okon was to attribute the 3-0 humiliation of his team to the late arrival of the club to the match, pointing out that his players suffered from rigorous traveling schedule before the game.
“The team is tired from all the traveling issues and that’s the normal result. My job is to pick up their spirit, let them know that the game is over and recover for the next matches”, Coach Okon said in a post match interview.
The former Falconets and Super Falcons Head Coach also  blamed Rivers Angels embarrassing defeat on bad preparation
preparation, stressing that his side paid the price for arriving the match venue late.
Prompt News investigations revealed that Coach Okon may have a point there as Rivers Angels failures in the competition started with the scandalous loss in the first match due to fatigue suffered by his players who were subjected to hectic travel regime by the club’s management that failed woefully to make a seamless travel arrangements for the team.

Give Way. ..Rivers Angels player in blue & white stripe dribbles past Hasaacas Ladies defenders during WAFU B tournament.

The management of Rivers state-owned club opted to make their  travel arrangements to Egypt, including the procurement of entry visas for the contingent through its protocol personnel who failed to execute the duty.

It was a case of a joke taken too far by the decision-makers as   they will be regretting not planning their trip to Egypt with the  NFF which has a Protocol Department very knowledgeable in the procurement of entry visas and flight arrangements for national teams and clubs representing Nigeria in the continental football  competitions like the one Rivers Angels attended in Egypt.
With the club’s management bungling the procurement of entry visas , the players, coaching crew and backroom staff were made to spend long hours at the Nigerian airport waiting for the visas that never came. Morale was down but with the intervention of the Federation and the competition organizers, the Egyptian government later agreed to issue Rivers Angels visas on arrival in Cairo to enable the club play the first match less than 24 hours to kick off.
The results of the planlessness of the club’s management are the team’s inability to cross the group stage of the maiden CAF Women’s Champions League in Egypt.
Watch out for the Second Part of this revealing report. It’s a bombshell.

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