Black Ottawa Scene caught up with Edwin Okon Head Coach of the Super Falcons, Nigeria’s Women’s national soccer team, on December 6, 2014. at Jim Robillard Centre, at the end-of -year party held by the AkwaCross Association.
My name is Edwin Okon Edem
What brings you to Canada?
We are here for the 2015 Women’s World Cup draw in Canada
How did that go for Nigeria?
It’s a good one for us because we’re pitched against USA, Sweden and Australia. It’s a good draw for we Nigerians.
So you think the Falcons have a good chance of advancing from the first round in this group?
Yeah we’re thinking, our calculation, all our thinking is just to top the group.
The Super Falcons have done well in some years but these past three years they seem to have faltered a little bit. What is the difference this year’s team compared to the previous ones ?. In the Olympics they didn’t do very well. So what is the difference this year?
I think this is a new team put together by God himself through us . We just finished the African Nations Cup tournament, we came out as champions in Namibia. Here we are for the World Cup draws and we know at this level , our thinking is how to make the country proud to go beyond wherever the Super Falcons had been before. In the Olympics we start the qualifying games next year. We think we’re equally do well in the Olympics this time around.
When you look at the other teams, not just in your qualifying group, but in the bigger picture, who do you are the biggest danger, which teams are you going to worry most about?
In the first place there is no team that is a pushover. We are not worried about any team. We think we can take on any team. You know about football, even if you dodge at anybody , at the end of the day that level we prepare ourselves to meet anybody. We’re not afraid of anybody.
But the powerhouses in the past have been the US and Germany and we have not done very well against them in the past . So what do you think are our chances if we happen to draw them either in the quarter finals, or even Brazil as well but they have not done well recently?
At this level it’s not always one plus one as people think it is. If we’re drawn against those countries, we’ll do our best, we’ll do well. We should come out of it.
So what do you think are Nigeria’s chances of winning the trophy for the first time, as the first African team to win the Women’s World Cup?
That is all our thinking, that’s our mission. Our thinking is that this time around, we’ll go on to the final. Nigerians are eyeing the cup
Looking at the Nigerian soccer scene we see what happened to the Super Eagles in the African Cup of Nations and the 2014 World Cup, and we’ve seen the in- fighting within the Nigerian Football Federation, between the Pinnick faction and the Giwa faction. How has that affected your preparations?
In the first place, what happened to the Eagles can happen to any country. That is football for you. It has nothing to do with the preparation of the Falcons because if you watch the last tournament that we played in Namibia, the girls were tough. Our own is on the pitch, we are not politicians, we’re here to correct whoever is not doing well and to see how we can do well. By the time you get it right, all will be well with the team.
But what about the in-fighting in the NFF, between the Pinnic and Giwa factions, has that affected your preparation in any way?
There is no fighting in the NFF today. I’ve just heard of the appeal that they have upheld the election of Pinnick as chairman of the NFF just two days ago. So there is nothing like in fighting anymore.
So the court has ruled in favour of Pinnick?
We were here in Canada when I heard the news the good news of the appeal committee.
So you feel that’s a positive sign that the NFF can now stabilize and focus on preparing the the Women’s World Cup rather than going to the courts and making a mess of everything?
My appeal to them is that everybody should put down his swords . Let’s see how to move Nigerian football forward. We should think of how to get back home and think of how to raise a good team and take us where we should be. We should bury our hatchet and see how we can work as a team. If we can work as a team, I think we can move mountains. I appeal to all those, all those that are aggrieved to sit down and see how we can move the team and the game of football forward in Nigeria.
Looking at your team, who are the stars, this seems to be a brand new team, the team that won in Namibia, they don’t seem to be names that are well known as in the past. Can you mention any big names, some of the star players that we should be looking out for?
In the Super Falcons today, everybody is a star. Whether you are five years old as soon as you’re in that team, we regard you the same as the oldest man in the team. Every player in that team is a star. We give equal preference to every player. We treat everybody equally.
So there is no player that you can single out, you can say, this is the point person? If you look at the big teams in the world, Argentina has Messi, Portugal has Ronaldo and so on. So when you look at the Falcons is there any player that stands out, you can say, this is a game changer?
In the first place, it’s a team work, so everybody is equal. It’s a team game, every player in the team is equal, whether small or big, they are all equal
Which venue will you be playing in the qualifying round, what city?
We’ll be playing in Winnipeg. I know we’ll come out from that group.
Is there any message you’d like to give to our readers, especially the Nigerian readers either in Winnipeg or here in Ottawa? We’re all very big followers of soccer.
My message to the Nigerian community in Canada, I watched them cheering the Falconets in the last Under-20 tournament. I appeal to you equally as well to come out en mass and cheer the senior ladies in the Nigerian team and they should keep on praying for the team. Prayer is the key to success and by their prayers and support, I think God will see us through.
Thank you very much.
Thank you my brother.