Magazine article New African

FALCONS REIGN SUPREME: Against the Odds, Nigeria's Super Falcons Lifted Their Eighth African Women's Title in Cameroon, in a Tournament Judged to Be One of the Best Organised and Attended in Recent Times. Usher Komugisha Reports

Magazine article New African

FALCONS REIGN SUPREME: Against the Odds, Nigeria's Super Falcons Lifted Their Eighth African Women's Title in Cameroon, in a Tournament Judged to Be One of the Best Organised and Attended in Recent Times. Usher Komugisha Reports

Article excerpt

As the continent's most successful female side, lifting an unprecedented eighth Africa Women's Cup of Nations (AWCON) title in Yaounde might appear to be "par for the course" for Nigeria.

But a 1-0 victory against Cameroon's Indomitable Lionesses, who reached the final without losing a game or conceding a goal--an impressive record--came through sweat and sheer persistence. It was Desire Oparanozie's lone strike that separated the two teams in what was a very tough final.

Scoring from close range, Oparanozie's goal was a hammer blow to the expectant crowd, bursting from the stands at a packed Stade Omnisport. Nothing could console the distraught and utterly frustrated Cameroonians, for whom victory seemed to be certain.

But Simon Lyonga, a local broadcast journalist, is optimistic that despite the painful loss, the future is bright for women's football in the Central African country.

"I think after this display, the government will take women's football very seriously. The game will be given more attention."

Cameroon certainly made a great effort to stage one of the best-organised AWCONs in recent memory. The colourful and carefully choreographed opening ceremony showcased the beautiful culture and diversity of the continent's five regions. Music was performed by a group of local artists including renowned local musician Thierry Sandio, a composer and writer in the team of popular Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour.

The tournament also set the tone for a celebration of sport that did not ignore important civil society issues, such as the prevention of underage marriages.

From the hairstyles of the players to the colourful boots, there were telling reminders that the game truly has a female bent, which, even with its idiosyncrasies, was no less competitive that the male version of the Nations Cup.

Cameroon's Gaelle Enganamouit, the poster girl of the Indomitable Lionesses, is well known for her signature look, with her trademark golden hair tint, while the She-Pharaohs of Egypt were allowed to wear kit that accommodated their religious sensibilities.

As at most AWCONs, Nigeria was the outright favourite to defend their title, even though the ride to their eighth trophy--which makes them the most successful national team in CAF's 6o-year-old history, ahead of Egypt's Pharaohs--was no joyride for them.

Ghana's Black Queens earned a well-deserved draw against the Falcons during the group stages and South Africa's Banyana Banyana ("The Girls") put up stiff resistance in the semi-finals, even though they succumbed to Nigeria's wealth of experience.

It was no surprise that Kenya, tournament debutants, had a baptism of fire in Cameroon, as their lack of inexperience showed against better-drilled sides in Group B.

But their performance was not a true reflection of the state of the game in East Africa, as Ethiopia and Tanzania, who did not qualify for Cameroon 2016, have been far more competitive at previous tournaments.

"We played three matches and did not get a win but I think the two goals that we scored are a strong motivation for us as a country, showing that our players have ability and potential," said David Ouma, Kenya's head coach.

"The Kenya Football Federation (FKF) has really worked hard and the government have ensured that the girls play against highly competitive sides, so I think this is a very defining year for them. …

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