REVEALED: Why Rivers Angels Crashed Out of CAF Women’s Champions League (3)

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

Defeated Rivers Angels

In probing why Nigeria’s league champions, Rivers Angels of Port Harcourt crashed out in the group stage of the maiden CAF Women’s Champions League  (CAFWCL) in Cairo, Egypt, the role of the twin monsters, corruption in our football leagues and security challenges will be examined in this report.

The game of football like other sports are dependent on the level of officiating hence the roles of referees in ball games are very important for the development of the sports. In football at all levels including women’s football matches, referees are required before any match, novelty and official, could kick off and for the duration of the game, the referee and his/her two assistant referees and the fourth official determine the outcome of the match.
Prompt News investigations however revealed that the role of match referees in the women’s football league has been anything but positive as matches are not always won on the field of play as already highlighted above in this report.
It has been alleged that Nigerian women’s football league matches are for the highest bidders for sometime now even as the Club Managers who address themselves as ‘Club Owners’, although most of the clubs in Nigeria are sponsored by state governments, have constituted a clog in the wheel of progress of women’s football in Nigeria.

First sponsors of the Nigerian Women’s Football from 1997 to 2002

For example, in the concluded 14-team Nigeria Women’s Football League (NWFL), Premier Division, only FC Robo of Lagos is privately owned while the rest are funded by state governments.

They include Rivers Angels (Rivers state), Delta Queens (Delta state), Edo Queens (Edo state), Nasarawa Amazons (Nasarawa state) and Bayelsa Queens (Bayelsa state) as well as Sunshine Queens and Confluence Queens sponsored by Ondo and Kogi states respectively.
Yet, the managers of the clubs arrogated to themselves the ownership of the state teams and to justify their status they entered into unholy alliances with some corrupt match officials to ensure that their clubs win football matches at all cost hence the league winners every season never reflected the best of the clubs in Nigeria.

Specifically, a lot of shenanigans happen in the Nigerian leagues just as it is in the public domain that in the women’s league, home clubs abhor video recording of the matches by the opposing teams as any attempt by the visiting team to screen or record the match proceedings or to have it on tape which will form an evidence should anything go wrong in the match have been vehemently resisted by the so-called “Club Owners”.

In this way, the compromised match officials have an alibi should something go terribly wrong. And, satisfied that the match will not be recorded by the opponents, home teams commit “blue murder”and still get away with it
and the beat goes on and on like Julius Aghaghowa’s somersault in 2002  Korea FIFA World Cup final when he scored Nigeria’s lone goal in the the match. And without any documentary evidence to hold corrupt match officials accountable, any accusation against them for bad officiating in a particular match cannot be proved beyond doubts.

For the Good of Women’s Football…FIFA has invested huge sums of money in the development of women’s football around the world including the women’s football leagues.

Concluding the report on why Nigeria’s league champions, Rivers Angels of Port Harcourt crashed out in the group stage of the maiden CAF Women’s Champions League  (CAFWCL) in Cairo, Egypt cannot be complete without looking at the role the Security Challenges plaguing the country has played in making the NWFL a mockery amongst women’s football leagues in Africa in particular and world in general .

There is no gainsaying that another monster that have contributed to the poor position of women’s football in Nigeria in the recent time and by extention led to  Rivers Angels’ woeful outing in Egypt and also playing a second fiddle to Ghana’s Hasaacas Ladies in Abidjan earlier in the year in the WAFU B Tournament is the Security Challenges plaguing the country.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Nigeria women’s football clubs travelled round the country to honour their matches even in far places which the current clubs cannot attempt now because of the security situation in Nigeria.
For example, a Lagos-based Princess Jegede Babes FC travelled up North several times to honour their away games
including to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state to do battles with El Kanemi Queens of Maiduguri and to Mangu Township Stadium in Jos North to play against Tin City Queens FC handled by ex-Super Falcons Head Coach, Alhaji Ismaila Mabo.
Also, Rasheedat Oladimeji Tigress FC of Ilorin travelled to Calabar and Port Harcourt to confront Pelican Stars and Rivers Angels FC just as Kakanfo Queens of Abeokuta owned by late MKO Abiola’s wife, Chief (Mrs) Simbiat Abiola travelled across the country for their away games.
Then it was a strong field of 20 clubs with each team playing a total of 38 matches  before a champion club could emerge. This was how top clubs like high-flying Ufuoma Babes FC of Warri; Pelican Stars and Rivers Angels became undisputed NWFL Champions.
Today, insecurity in the land which has festered for a decade now has limited travels across the country by clubs and the league organisers had no choice but to adopt new ways to play the competition to safeguard life and properties of players.
For this singular reason, the women’s football league has been reduced to an abridged format, where the surviving 14 clubs are divided into Group A and B with seven teams each.
This new format has resulted to the 14 clubs playing fewer games in a full season with each club in the group playing only  12 matches in one year hence the introduction of another contraption called “Super 6 Play-Off”. It involves three top clubs in Group A and B having another round of matches in a chosen venue to determine the champion team.
Unfortunately, it was this type of league that produced Rivers Angels of Port Harcourt which was not able to compete favourably in CAFWCL in Egypt
with clubs from countries that never introduced women’s football league when Nigeria was dominating Africa.
In summary, a combination of many interactable problems bedevilling women’s football in Nigeria contributed to Rivers Angels’ woeful outing in Egypt and playing a second fiddle to Ghana’s Hasaacas Ladies in Abidjan earlier in the year.
It is therefore foolhardy for anyone to believe that Nigeria’s women’s football teams including the Super Falcons will continue to dominate Africa when the conveyor belt or supply chain   (the league) is faulty and needs immediate overhaul.
It calls into question the manner of “Premier Women’s Football League” being currently organised in Nigeria when the champions of the same league could be roundly thrashed in Egypt by minors like Morocco and South Africa.
Will it be wrong to argue that women’s football was at its best in the 1990s and 2000s when astute women’s football administrators were incharge at clubs and national levels, a period the Super Falcons was un-playable in Africa and a force at world level by reaching the quarter final of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup in the United States of America (USA).
Interestingly, the feat by the Super Falcons was achieved with 100% Nigerian women’s football league players and all indigenous coaches, defeating  European and Asian top nations, Denmark and North Korea on the way to the quarter final clash with Brazil.
Who will Rescue Nigeria Women’s Football ?

Pathfinders All…Group photograph of Nigeria Football Association (NFA) 7-Man Women’s Football Development Committee ‘Project Team’ that developed and executed the Blue Print for Super Falcons preparations and participation in the first African Women’s Championship (AWC) in 1998 and 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in USA. Nigeria won the AWC and finished 7th in the FIFA World Cup to qualify for Sydney 2000 Olympic Games in Australia. Pix: Back row L-R: Mr. Harry Awurumibe; Dr.Demola Adejo-Vice Chair and Chief Mrs, Gina Yeseibo Chairperson NFA WFC; Mr.Iain Nelson-PepsiCo/Chairman NFA WFC Project Team and Rex Adegboji. Inset: Princess Oi Ajibola. Front row: L-R: Mrs. Rose Onuoha and Mrs. Lizzy Onyenwenwa

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