FIFA President, Joseph Blatter
President of world football-governing body, FIFA, Joseph Blatter has urged the Nigeria Football Federation to strive to keep the bulk of the U-20 Women National Team, Falconets that finished fourth at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup finals in Japan together so they can form the next Super Falcons.
Though they ended up with the wooden spoon among the four semi finalists, after a splendid run that saw them win three matches and draw one, Blatter said the Falconets played with purpose, vision and invention and should be encouraged.
“Your girls are very good players. Their creativity and strength bring a lot to the tournament, and it would be good to keep them together so they can take the steps to the next grade,” Blatter told NFF Executive Committee member and leader of delegation, Chief Effiong Johnson as the two sat alongside other dignitaries in the presidential box during Saturday’s finale in Tokyo.
Runners-up in the last edition in Germany two years ago, the Gloria Ofoegbu-led Falconets appeared to have lost their bite after edging Mexico 1-0 in a gruelling quarter final that went into extra time.
A 2-0 defeat by eventual champions USA in the semi finals was followed by 1-2 loss to hosts Japan in the third place on Saturday.
But President Blatter insisted the girls were not disgraced and that their battling effort on Saturday against the host nation, especially in the second half, underscored tenacity and courage in front of a near full-house rooting for the opponents.
“Don’t be discouraged. You showed strength of character and capacity. You are a great credit to the women’s game,” Blatter told the Nigerian girls as he stood to applaud them in the stands after the medal-presentation ceremony at the Tokyo National Stadium.
“I thank you very much, Mr. Blatter, for appreciating our team’s efforts. I will inform the NFF President and other members of the Executive Committee about your charge when we return to Nigeria,” responded Chief Johnson.
The Falconets’ delegation to the finals in Japan will depart Tokyo on Sunday night aboard an Emirates Airline flight, to connect from Dubai to Lagos on Monday morning.