By Emeka Obasi
Coach Ismaila Mabo, the first African to take a female team to the quarter finals of the FIFA Women’s Championships. The Super Falcons of 1999 were respected, and Nigeria Female Team never remain the same on the World map.
In an interview conducted by the editor on how he did it and what happened why he was not present at the award night organised by the NFF.
“Emeka, they have forgotten me. Thank you for this call. I am still alive but they have forgotten me,” Mabo said when I called him to find out what went wrong.
While the event was going on, the story was that the coach was contacted but could not make the trip to Lagos from the Plateau. It turned out to be quite untrue.
According to Mabo, “Nobody contacted me. I was not invited. I will not tell you lies at this my age. Please don’t raise your blood pressure because of me. I am pained but I am still alive.”
The god of soccer is also still alive. Less than 24 hours after that sad event, the Super Falcons were thoroughly disgraced at the Aisha Buhari competition by Banyana Banyana of South Africa in Lagos.
The South Africans gave Nigeria a 4- 2 drubbing in what drew reminiscences of the 1999 USA ’99 World Cup loss to Brazil in the quarter finals. Banyana Banyana went three goals up in the first half before Falcons started breathing in the second stanza and got two quick goals.
In 1999, Brazil were three goals better in 35 minutes through Cidinha’s brace and Nene’s strike. Prisca Emeafu scored in the 63rd minute, Nkiru Okosieme made it two in the 72nd before Nkechi Egbe’s equaliser came five minutes to time.
The match went into extra time. And for the first time in the competition, the golden goal rule was applied. Sissi gave Brazil the winner in the 104th minute.
Falcons did not win any match in the previous editions. At the maiden tourney, China ’91, they could not score. At Sweden ’95, the girls best was a draw with debutants Canada.
Mabo improved on that with victory against North Korea and Denmark respectively at USA ’99. And that was after recovering from the 7-1 hammering by hosts and eventual Champions, USA. Brazil won bronze and Sissi shared the Golden Boot with Sun Wen of China. Each of them scored seven goals.
Mabo realised what the problem was with the Americans and pulled out goalie Ann Chiejine for Judith ‘Kamala’ Chime. Nkiru Okosieme had scored the first goal of the game before the Americans began to dance.
Against Brazil, it could have been a miracle if Patience Avre did not pick a red card in the 87th minute. Ifeanyi Chiejine, at 16, was the youngest player at USA ’99.
Mabo won the African Women’s Championships with Falcons in 2000 defeating Banyana Banyana. He assembled a Falcons team B that won All Africa Games gold in 2003 and in 2004 took Falcons to the quarter finals of the Athens Olympic Games.