Florence Omagbemi: Her Crowning Glory

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After playing for the Super Falcons for over a decade, Florence Omagbemi last Saturday in Yaounde, Cameroon, led Nigeria to its eighth victory in the African Women Cup of Nations, to become the first Nigerian to win the trophy as a player and as a coach. Will this feat earn Omagbemi the Falcons’ job on a permanent basis? Kunle Adewale asks

She was given the Super Falcons’ coaching job on an interim basis to lead the team to the 2016 Africa Women Cup of Nations, but she never hid the fact that retaining the trophy won two years earlier would not be an easy task. Omagbemi understood that retaining the title would require more from the technical crew. Heading into the final against Cameroun, she said the team would build on the positives from the win over South Africa.

The tactician indeed praised her players for their determination against all odds in retaining the African title at the expense of host, Cameroun at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde. It was a record eighth African title for Nigeria.

The 41-year-old insists her side played for pride and prestige to survive their various opponents in spite of many challenges faced enroute the 2016 continental showpiece.

“I want to thank the Cameroonian team and the coach for giving us a good game. It was a great final to watch seeing the best two teams in Africa competing.

“As regards our journey to the tournament, I will give my players all the credits for achieving these despite all odds because they deserve it. It was a long journey from Nigeria to the final.

“At the beginning of our game against Mali, we took it one game at a time and that was my communication in all my press conference; that we must give other teams some respect as they were all here to compete for the trophy.”

“Against Mali, it was a good result. We had a good score margin against them as we didn’t take them for granted. Against the Ghanaians, we got a good result but most people didn’t believe in us. I used to say it that we were here to defend our title. All the way to our game against Kenya – the scoreline was different. 

“Even though in the semifinals, we played against South Africa, it was a different approach and we came out victorious. As defending champion, you have the pride and the prestige – the players understood all this pressure, stick to plan and playing together as a team because every game we play comes with different expectation. 

“Even though with the crowd here, at the end of the day, we came out victorious. Even though, we only had one or two chances, all I care about is the victory and that’s all that matters right now and I want to celebrate that with everyone”, Omagbemi said.

Omagbemi believes African teams at women international tournaments would compete well if CAF provided more competitions for clubs and national sides on the continent.

She further lamented the poor showing of African teams at the World Cup and Olympics, urging football administrations to give a helping hand to moving the women’s game forward.

 “I’m speaking out on behalf of Nigeria and the Africa continent. Coming out to the press conferences all the time, we hear different stories about how different federations are struggling for support to get their teams’ ready in women football. Now, we are done with the Nations Cup. We want to focus again and see how we can prepare these teams for a world cup stage.”

Meanwhile, former Super Eagles Coach, Christian Chukwu has congratulated the Super Falcons of Nigeria for doing the nation proud in the 2016 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Chukwu in a telephone interview with NAN in Okutipupa, Ondo State said that the Falcons proved themselves as “Super” by retaining the title.

“Although, the Falcons missed so many scoring chances, it is expected in a final match; but they performed excellently since the beginning of the championship. I congratulate the Falcons and Nigerians on the sweet victory because they have proved to the world that they are indeed “Super” for retaining the title,” Chukwu said.

In the same vein, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, commended the Super Falcons for emerging African champions for the eighth time.

Dogara said that by winning the 2016 African Women’s Cup of Nations, the Super Falcons had made Nigeria proud.

 “The Super Falcons played classic Nigerian soccer, exhibiting the true Nigerian spirit of resilience and hard work. By weathering the storm in all stages of the competition, the Super Falcons displayed an uncommon spirit of patriotism. You have not only earned yourself a place in our history and advanced your careers as athletes, but your victory today is a victory to all Nigerians.

 “We are proud of all the players and members of the technical crew more especially Florence Omagbemi, who made history as the first to win the championship as a player and a coach,’’ Dogara stated.

Interestingly, Cameroon women coach, Enow Ngachu, conceded that Nigeria prove they remained the best in Africa.

Ngachu who watched his Indomitable Lionesses fall to the reigning African champions for the third time in the tournament’s final, rued his side’s lack of scoring in last Saturday’s defeat.

“I want to congratulate my counterpart, Florence Omagbemi of Nigeria. I think they have shown they are still the best in Africa. As far as my team is concerned, I think we did all we could and had a lot of chances that we squandered but they converted their single opportunity. That’s what makes a great team.

“It is a pity we will keep regretting losing in the final again but after all, this is football. There should be a winner and a loser. Everything went right for us as planned because we had many scoring chances but failed to convert any of them and Nigeria scored their only chance,” ,” Ngachu said in a post-match conference.

Omagbemi was born on February 2, 1975. She was part of the Nigerian women’s team across four FIFA Women’s World Cups, several Africa Women’s Cup of Nations and at the 2000 summer Olympics. In 2016, she was named interim coach of the national side, having previously been an assistant coach to the national under-20 team.

She played for the national team. As captain, she won the Africa Women Cup of Nations on four occasions1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004 and was also part of the Nigerian team which competed in the 2000 Olympics in Australia.

She began her coaching career with several American based youth teams, before being called up to be the assistant coach for the Nigeria national under-20 team. While in that position, the team reached the semifinals of the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup before being eliminated by the United States. Omagbemi was named as an interim coach of the senior national side for the 2016 Africa Women Championship, after Nigeria had been without a coach since the sack of Christopher Danjuma following a poor performance of the team at the 2015 All African Games.