Francisca Ordega: Gap between Super Falcons and other teams closing very fast
Super Falcons attacking winger, Francisca Ordega has raised the alarm that other teams in Africa are fast closing the gap that once existed between them and Nigeria. In this exclusive interview with the Washington Spirits of the USA star said the performance teams at the just concluded 2018 AWCON in Ghana is a disturbing sign that in the next four to five years, Super Falcons may not dominate African women football again.
How happy are you with the victory of the Super Falcons at the recently concluded Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, AWCON, in Ghana? The feeling is quite special considering that many things weren’t right with the team. It wasn’t an easy task to successfully defend the title. Every other team went into the tournament with the aim of winning but we were able to prove that despite our shortcomings, we are still the best team. I want to thank God almighty for giving us the victory which didn’t come on a platter of gold. And the icing on the cake I can say is the fact that I scored two goals and won two Woman of the Match awards.
However, you were left out of CAF’s best XI team. How disappointed are you that you were excluded?
Sure, I feel disappointed because everybody can see that by my performance I deserved to be in the list. Some of the players who made the best XI didn’t win a single Woman of the Match award. I scored two goals and won two Woman of the Match awards yet I was left out of the team. Well, I am not losing any sleep over that. The truth is when you know you did well and everybody saw what you were able to do, that is all. The most important thing is that I helped my team to win the tournament.
Many people said Super Falcons semifinal clash against Cameroon was the final before final. Was that the most difficult match for the team?
I agree with those who feel that way but to some extent. It was indeed final before final but that is not to take anything away from the real final with South Africa. Physically, that was the most difficult match but tactically, it wasn’t. We all know that Cameroonians are usually very physical in their play and that was exactly what we met on that day. They are strong players who have been together for long. So like I said, tactically the South Africans were better and more difficult to contend with. They really deployed tactics that made it very difficult for teams to cope with them. The Bayana Bayana have improved tremendously.
From what you have said, you weren’t surprised that the Bayana Bayana defeated the Super Falcons in the opening match.......
No, not at all. I wasn’t surprised because they really prepared for the Nations Cup. I was very happy for what they were able to achieve. I know they were all out to go to their first World Cup, so they really worked hard for it. They qualified for the first time for the World Cup and they deserve their qualification. Among the teams that were in Ghana, they had the best preparation. They played so many international friendly matches before the tournament. It is just like you are going into a fight and you didn’t prepare well. If eventually you are beaten by your opponent who prepared better, you won’t be surprised.
How did the Super Falcons manage to stay focused despite losing the opening match to South Africa?
Many Nigerians didn’t believe in us but we believed in ourselves. We are professional players so we are not new to situations like the one that was before us. We had to talk to ourselves. Like I said so many people had written us off even before the tournament started. So when we lost to South Africa, it became even worse. Some said we were too old and not fit to be at the tournament. That didn’t stop us from concentrating on what was before us. However, it is the same people that are singing our praises now. So we knew what we wanted so we didn’t allow anything to distract us.
So what exactly was in the mind of the players before the final against South Africa?
You see most of us are more experienced than them so we felt challenged. We all concluded that South African won’t beat us twice in the same tournament. So in as much as we all knew they were well prepared, we went all out for our pound of flesh and thank God we got it. We kept talking to ourselves that they won’t beat us twice. Therefore, even as we had already secured our World Cup ticket, we were still motivated. In the end, we defeated them.
Going by the performance of other teams in Ghana, how long do you think the Super Falcons will maintain their dominance in Africa?
Of course, if you have friends who are ahead of you, you don’t go to sleep. You will strive hard to catch up with them. That is exactly what is happening. The rest of the teams are trying very hard to catch up with Nigeria. Indeed the gap that once existed between us and other African countries is closing very fast. It is not wide again. Everybody saw what the South Africans played. Honestly, if our domestic league is not given proper attention, very spoon, other countries will take over from Nigeria. In the next four or five years, other countries will take over from us. The truth is that other countries are developing women football from the grassroots. They have academies. But here we have nothing. While our team is dominated by foreign players other countries are using their local players to play against us. This is worrisome.
Would you say the present squad is good enough for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup?
With good preparations, I am sure this squad can do well at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. We only need to play top international friendly matches. We have young players from the U-20 team who have joined up with us and some of us have got World Cup experience so a combination of youth and experience can take us far in France. So if we prepare well, we can go beyond where we have been stopping at the World Cup.
Minister of Sport Barrister Solomon Dalung (left) handing over the Torch of Unity to the FCT Minister Muhammed Bello at the Abuja City Gate, Thursday. Photo: Olusola Jide