FIFA President, Joseph Sepp Blatter, has urged the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to strive to keep the bulk of the U-20 women national team, the Falconets, which finished fourth at the U-20 Women’s World Cup finals in Japan together and form the next Super Falcons from that.
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, Effiong Johnson, as the two sat alongside other dignitaries in the presidential box during weekend’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 out Mexico 1-0 in a grueling quarter-final that went into extra time. A 0-2 loss to the eventual champions, United States, in the semi-finals was followed by 1-2 loss to hosts, Japan, in the third place game over the weekend.
However, Blatter insisted that the girls were not disgraced and that their battling effort 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.
The Falconets delegation to the finals departed Tokyo last night aboard Emirates Airline to connect from Dubai to Lagos this morning.