Written by: Aissa Huysmans
The Nigerian team, known as the Super Falcons, enters the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup as the top team hailing from the African continent. They have continued to absolutely dominate the women’s soccer scene on the African continent, and have qualified for every Women’s World Cup since it was first held, in 1991 (1). Their best result in the World Cup was in 1999 when they made it through the group stages to the Quarterfinals. Since then, Nigeria has been unable to make it past the group stages, and this year will provide them another tough challenge in Group D.
The Super Falcons have an impressive record in the African Women’s Chamionship (2), with Nigeria consistently coming out as the most successful African women’s soccer team, boasting a total of 9 winning performances. The Nigerian team has two youth teams, U17 and U20, both of which perform well in international tournaments.
This video below shows some of the highlights of the U20 Nigerian women’s soccer team:
Highlights & Inspiration from Nigeria U20 Women’s World Cup Soccer #WeGotYouSis from YouTube user BlackinBiz TV
This year, Nigeria has once again been drawn in one of the toughest groups of the tournament. Facing three big power houses in the form of the USA, Sweden and Australia. Their head coach for the tournament is Edwin Okon (for more in-depth interviews with him pre-world cup, click here (3)). Okon is quite well known for his firm stance against depending on foreign-based players (4), and rather ensures that he builds the team from the local level first. If one looks at the roster (5) for the 2014 African Womens Championship, only 7 of the 21 players are shown to play in foreign leagues, allowing there to be a substantial home based representation of players who know each other well and often play together. Currently, he invited 10 foreign players, and 26 home-based players for the camp leading up to the 2015 World Cup (6).
Since the previous women’s World Cup, the Nigerian team has faced some controversy though. In both 2011 (7) and 2013 (8) debate began over whether or not players who were lesbian would be allowed to play for the national team. In 2011, it was the head coach at the time (Uche) who expressed concerns over her players, and turned to religion to “protect” her players from behaving in certain ways (7). These tensions flared up again in 2013 when the head of the Nigerian Women Football League, Dilichukwu Onyedinma, was quoted saying that if any players were found engaging in lesbian acts, they would be immediately banned (8). FIFA has been called on to intervene a number of times, but so far nothing significant has occurred. This is an issue that consistently resurfaces in many teams and it is hoped that on the world stage, perhaps these issues can be brought forward and discussed in order to protect the players and their rights as individuals. The politics of the Nigerian football association continue to plague the team, and often the team has to deal with overbearing politicians, visa troubles and financial restraints.
Despite these issues casting a darker shadow over the Nigerian team, the head coach and the players remain hopeful and will certainly give it their all in the upcoming months. With a highly physical team, the Nigerians always offer stiff competition to their rivals. In the dubbed “Group of Death” (9), it will be interesting to see what Nigeria makes of their run for the title this year.
Player to Watch: Asisat Oshoala
20 year old Asisat Oshoala is one of the players to look out for during the 2015 Women’s World Cup. As the highest goal scorer in the U20 Women’s World Cup in 2014, she is a huge threat in Nigeria’s attack (10). Asisat dropped out of school to pursue a career in soccer, and is currently playing for the Liverpool Ladies in England (11). As a long time fan of Liverpool, it was an easy decision for Asisat to make, and she made headlines all over the continent when she officially committed to the English side. Asisat is sure to make a huge impact for the Nigerian side, and is coming to the World Cup ready to make some noise. Don’t count Nigeria out!
“People find it difficult to believe that there are good teams in Africa. We’re not just going there to complete the numbers, we’re going there to make sure people know African teams are not just pushover teams at the World Cup, we’re going there to fight.” – Asisat Oshoala (11)
Asisat Oshoala goal in 2014 against South Africa from YouTube user PFYStormroller2
1. Nigeria Women’s football team. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigeria_women’s_national_football_team
2. African Women’s Championship. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Women%27s_Championship
3. Interview with Head Coach Edwin Okon. http://blackottawascene.com/in-conversation-with-edwin-okon-nigerias-super-falcons-head-coach/
4. Foreign-based players. http://dailyindependentnig.com/2015/03/im-not-relying-foreign-based-players-okon/
5. Nigeria’s roster. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigeria_women%27s_national_football_team
6. Super Falcons Camp. http://www.goal.com/en-ng/news/4093/nigeria/2015/02/13/8892722/edwin-okon-calls-36-to-super-falcons-camp
7. Homophobia remains a big obstacle. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/sports/soccer/in-african-womens-soccer-homophobia-remains-an-obstacle.html?_r=0
8. Nigerian Football Federation Denies Lesbian Ban. http://www.mambaonline.com/2013/03/12/nigerian-football-federation-denies-lesbian-ban/
9. Group of Death. http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/usa-draws-the-group-of-death-in-2015-womens-world-cup/
10. Asisat Oshoala. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asisat_Oshoala
11. Nigerian Superstar at Liverpool. http://www.theguardian.com/football/2015/mar/21/asisat-oshoala-liverpool-ladies-nigeria-wsl-africa
1. Super Falcons. http://www.mambaonline.com/2013/03/12/nigerian-football-federation-denies-lesbian-ban/
2. Nigeria’s previous World Cup performances. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigeria_women’s_national_football_team
3. Edwin Okon. http://www.sl10.ng/news/articles/categories/super-eagles/edwin-okon-praise-stephen-keshi-and-the-super-eagles/192574
4. Asisat Oshoala. http://level3.soccerladuma.net/cms2/image_manager/uploads/News/173900/7/default.jpg
How to cite this article: “Nigeria” Written by Aissa Huysmans (2015), World Cup 2015, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/world-cup-guides/world-cup-2015-guide/nigeria/ (accessed on (date)).