I’m proud to have led Falcons bonus protest in 2019 –Oparanozie
Published January 2, 2021
What’s your take on the Super Falcons’ inactivity in 2020?
Going for months and years without engaging the Super Falcons is not a new thing, it’s been going on for years. Before the 2019 (Women’s) World Cup, we stayed dormant for a long time until a couple of months to the tournament, when we had some friendly games.
It has become a norm and I don’t think the inactivity of the Falcons should be blamed on COVID-19 because there are other countries that played during the period. Again, cancelling the (Women’s) Nation’s Cup wasn’t the right decision, I think it should have been postponed.
I think women’s football in Africa still has a long way to go, people at the helm of affairs have to do better. I hope and pray we get there soon, we need to do things right to be able to compete at the world stage, not just Africa. We should be tired of being just African champions, we have the talents, we have all it takes but then, we lack the structure. We lack the vision; those leading us can do better but have refused to do the right things.
We have a whole lot to do when it comes to women’s football in Nigeria. We have all it takes to be amongst the Top 10 women’s football playing nations in the world.
Do you think there is a workable structure for women’s football in Nigeria?
Firstly, our structure is not good, and then we don’t have grassroots football in Nigeria. In France for example, there are three major women’s leagues. There is the U-19, second division, and the top league, so there is a structure, and that’s what we don’t have.
Another thing we don’t have is representation. There are many people in Nigeria that aren’t even aware that there is an existing women’s league in Nigeria and we are not doing anything about that.
The league has come a long way and over time they’ve been trying to be consistent, making sure the league is played every year but then, we should try to put these games on TV because when you talk about sponsorship, you should be able to take home something from the deal as the person putting down the money.
Were you traumatised during the period you played in the domestic league?
It wasn’t easy coping in the Nigerian league. While I was playing there, it was tough and the standard was great and I believe the standard is still good but it’s still the same old story. Sometimes players are owed, most times you travel long distances for a game and still have to play on the same day despite the fatigue.
It was traumatising, but then I hadn’t had it any better, so I took it as if it was okay. Now, having tested both sides, I know that things can change.
If you had asked me then, I wouldn’t have complained but now, with the experience I have, I think things can be better.
What were your thoughts after being stripped of the Falcons’ captaincy?
Truth is, so many things happened behind the scene that many people don’t know about. With the national team, it’s always been like that. I will always speak the truth irrespective.
The issue of the captaincy, Thomas Dennerby (former Falcons coach) honoured me with the responsibility of leading the team. I was honoured and the thing is that he left and the new coach decided to appoint another captain. For me, it was a welcome development because I think a coach has the right to appoint whoever he wants as captain or continue with the previous captain, so I understand that.
I don’t know if my leadership influenced the coach’s decision to appoint a new captain in any way, it is entirely up to the coach and the federation. To me, anyone can be called upon to lead the team if they think the person has the qualities.
What I want is a united team, someone that will represent the team and at the same time represent the federation. For me it wasn’t a big deal, the most important thing was that I did my best to represent the team in the best possible way I could have and that’s it.
Were you consulted before being stripped of the captaincy?
I wasn’t consulted, it was a decision that was taken without my knowledge. In this part of the world, we do things not minding the effect, but really it is not a big deal and when they made the pronouncement, I accepted it in good faith.
Do you think the decision to strip you of your captaincy was linked to the bonus row at the 2019 W’Cup?
Before the 2019 World Cup, we were owed two-match bonuses from 2016. It was during the qualifiers, the away bonus was $1,500 because we drew the game. And the game at home we won and our bonus was supposed to be $3,000. But they said they no longer paid in foreign currencies and would have to pay us in Naira. They said they will pay us N500,000. But the issue was that the new law (of paying in local currency) wasn’t in effect in 2016. Anyway, that wasn’t a problem and we all agreed.
But it was three years without the payment. We got them (federation) to agree that they were going to pay the money but what the federation did was to pay the players that were still in the 2019 camp, leaving out others that were no longer in the team. So, I told them it wasn’t right and that was the problem.
We went back and forth for days and in the end, they were able to pay the players that were no longer in the team. I think if they had any reason to pick another captain, that might have been the reason because that was what transpired in camp and if that is the reason, I’m proud of what I did, fighting for players that were no longer in camp. So, there is no problem.
What are your thoughts on equal pay for men and women’s football teams?
I wouldn’t say we are there yet, but I really commend the Edo State Government for making equal pay for Edo Queens and Edo Insurance a reality. These things are doable but for some reasons, some individuals will not do what needs to be done.
It doesn’t have to be equal. What women earn in football is close to nothing compared to what their male counterparts earn. We are not saying it has to be 100 per cent, but the gap should be close.
Being in sports as a woman is not easy, so these things are doable. But some individuals will rather sit on it and make some decisions that will affect lives for years.
We failed to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Is it because of lack of talent or the less attention paid to women’s football?
We have the talents. Even if you take away the players playing abroad, we have the right talents at home to execute the qualifiers, but the reason we’ve failed is that we don’t pay enough attention to women’s football and a lot of African countries have caught up with us.
In the 2016 AWCON in Cameroon, we struggled. South Africa beat us in our opening game, then we met again in the semi-final and that was a tough game. At the last edition, we met them in the final and only won through penalties after playing 120 minutes.
These other teams have caught up with us because we’ve been sleeping. South Africa in the last two years have played more friendly games than the Falcons ever played. That’s a federation that always wants to put their players to the test and want to measure their success. That’s how it should be. Talent is not enough anymore.
The women’s league has been running for several years without sponsorship despite the efforts of NWFL chairperson Aisha Falode…
(Cuts in) I honestly commend Aisha Falode for what she’s been able to do so far because in a system like this, if you’re a visionary person, you will always see few people that want to pull you down.
I know we don’t have sponsors for the league yet, but one thing I know is that when you seek sponsorships for the men’s league, you can put in something about the women’s league too because it the same body at the top.
It all boils down to the marketing team, just add a little fraction of what is given to the men’s league to the female league so as to get the ball rolling.
You’ve not been invited to the Falcons since the 2019 World Cup. Would you return to the team if invited?
Yes, I will. I’m still playing, I’m still very active so if called upon, I will come back. Nigeria is the only home I have.
What are your 2021 objectives for your French club FC Dijon?
This year, the objective is to help the team qualify for the women’s Champions League because currently, three teams from France can qualify for the tournament. Initially, it was two, so now we’re looking forward to finishing in the top three to see if we can pick up the Champions League ticket.
The plan is to help my team achieve this goal. Hopefully, I stay healthy throughout the season to help them realise this goal.
I’m not setting any goal target for myself but I want to score as many goals as I can, I want to create several assists just to help the team. Whether I score or assist, the most important thing is to always have a positive impact and help the team get to where they want to be.
What was the experience like when you first arrived in Europe?
It wasn’t easy for me settling down in Europe but it was exciting and I was very young then. The first time I travelled to play in Europe was in Russia and it was extremely cold, the time difference, the food, the culture, everything was different and it was difficult for me at first. Sometimes I cried because I was homesick, but the hunger to succeed didn’t let me give up.
What has kept you going?
It’s been consistency. Getting to this point is one thing and remaining here is another. I think I have always had the zeal to succeed. I don’t like being a failure and where I’m coming from, I’m not sure it’s where I want to go back to, so I keep working hard. I try to do my best to remain here.
Can you describe the feeling of scoring the winning goal that gave Nigeria the eighth AWCON title in 2016 against hosts Cameroon?
The feeling is amazing. To date, when I watch the highlight, it brings exciting feelings. Scoring the lone goal in the 86th minute in front of over 40,000 spectators was huge. The stadium went silent, there was a deafening silence and their (Cameroon) President was at the stadium. I’m glad I scored the goal that gave us the eighth AWCON trophy.
Desire Oparanozie's goals at the 2016 African Nations Cup in Cameroon.
The first goal was against Kenya in a group game, the second goal was a free kick goal against South Africa in the semi-final (watch the goalkeeper's reaction) and the third goal was in the final against the host Cameroon (it was the goal that gave us the cup).
The way that the NFF treats the Super Falcons is quite terrible. They often go through an entire year without playing any matches, yet the fans would blame the players for any losses.
The Falcons did not play any matches, after winning the Nations Cup in 2016, until 2018 when the NFF hurriedly organised a friendly game against France. I am certain that the match was organised because of the online protest that was staged by Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie, Ngozi Okobi and Francisca Ordega.
The Falcons only trained for a few days before they were hammered by France and instead of blaming the NFF for the shoddy preparations, the fans blamed the players.
South Africa, Ghana and Cameroon regularly play friendly matches and they have caught up with Nigeria, but it seems like the Falcons are an after thought to the NFF. They only remember them when they have nothing else to do.
The girls are often owed bonuses and their travel plans are usually defective and they have had to stage street protests and hotel sit-ins in order to demand for their rights.
The NFF should make the women's football department autonomous, so that they can arrange friendlies and search for sponsors, because it seems like the NFF board are not interested in the Falcons.
The problem with Nigerian female football is not the players or coaches, it's the NFF.
My dear sister, some sound mind in Nigeria understand you, the only language Nigerian government understands fast is protest, just like Endsars stuff, our government especially this Buhari led Administration, they are not proactive until the issue gets to unsolvable stage, you will see them run upandawn, instead of nip the issue at the bud. But I don't blame them when you put President Buhari at helm of affairs.
Nigerian players perform well against the best in the world when playing for their clubs, but they can't replicate that performance when playing for the Super Falcons because of poor planning, poor preparation, bad decisions and bad management from the NFF.
Nigeria's women football starting nose diving when Oparanozie was stripped of the captaincy. She stood up for her colleagues but they powers that be removed her. SF have been losing matches then. No Olympics for them.
She is a beautiful girl, and her talent is so good. I wish our female soccer players can dress like ladies, put little makeup on, wash/make their hair regularly and take care of their dentals. May God bless all their endeavors.