By Alexander Johnson Adejoh
Former Super Eagles’ Welfare Coordinator, Sunmonu Bello-Osagie, is unhappy with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) over the recent 3rd NFF-Aiteo Football Awards, where the Super Falcons Team that reached the quarter finals of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted in the United States of America, were officially given recognition.
The Team won two of three games in the group stage to become the first African side to make it to the quarter finals of the women’s World Cup, coming from three goals down but lost to the Brazilian Team 4-3 in a gut-wrenching, exciting, nail-biting game that was decided by golden goal, the first time in the Women’s World Cup.
In this interview with Newsmen, Bello, an officer of the Nigeria Consulate in New York, United States of America, who had been part of the historical event, expressed disappointment that officials of the team were left out of the awards.
The NFF at the recent 3rd NFF-Aiteo Football Awards, recognized the Super Falcons’ Class of 1999 that reached the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup in the United States of America. What’s your reaction?
I want to sincerely congratulate the present management of the Nigeria Football Federation for honoring the team and rewarding their efforts. A couple of years back I recall that the Super Eagles squad of 1994 were given recognition and now, they recently honoured our women, the Super Falcons’ Class of 1999 that reached the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup in the United States of America.
But I was a little bit disappointed, I must confess, for someone who was also part of the team; I received them right in Los Angeles when they came. As one coming from the protocol office of the Consulate General of Nigeria in 1999, I saw coaches like Ismaila Mabo, who was the then Chief coach; the Late Jossy Lad and there was another one who is also late now.
Throughout the five weeks they stayed before the competition started, I remember those team officials worked so hard. And I saw posthumous awards that were given to two of our Nigerians who left us unceremoniously, but at least, the coach is supposed to be honoured. Ismaila Mabo is still there, Jossy Lad is late and so is the other one. So it will be nice to find a way to do that because it will be unfair if they are not.
What if it was an oversight?
Well, I want to say that in an institution like that, oversight is really not an excuse because when you say a team, it consists of players and officials. Like I said, at that time I didn’t have an appointment with the Nigeria Football Association but because of the fact that I was assigned by the Consul General to be the protocol liaison just like I was in 1994 and the Atlanta’96 Olympics. I saw the coaches and can attest to the fact that they worked.
They can still rectify it, it is important because I’ve always believed in the second stanza of Nigeria’s national anthem which says the labour of our heroes’ past shall not be vain. And I’ve always believed that it must never be in vain, it is not when people are dead that you start celebrating them.
What’s your reaction to that huge scandal that rocked Team Nigeria’s Camp at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games when 10 Nigerian athletes were disqualified from competing due to their missing mandatory tests?
Well, that should be a big lesson because that was a national embarrassment. That’s the truth, it is important that people learn to do what they’re supposed to do at that level. I mean, some of these athletes are professionals. But the rules are there so certain standards cannot be compromised.
But that was a big lesson because potentially we would have gotten some medals and no doubt the athletes ejected due to no faults of theirs must have been impacted negatively. It will be good to know that those responsible are sanctioned.
How do you rate the current administration’s attention on sports generally?
Well, the current administration’s attention to sports, I must be very frank with you, I think they’ve made tremendous progress. Because sports itself is a big honour to the country. And the way things are now at present, I want to believe strongly, and without any fear of contradiction, that I can see a lot of progress from the past.
The usual bickering with players not being paid their allowances is no longer there. I want to acknowledge the Nigeria Football Federation for reaching out to corporate bodies for resources to run the federation and competitions. I want to commend the Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyeama of Air Peace, who kept to his promise and redeemed the N20m pledge made to the Super Eagles prior to their second round Group C 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde in Mindelo.
The Eagles who flew to and fro Cape Verde in one of Air Peace’s ultramodern Embraer 195-E2 aircraft, received the cheque at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, on arrival. I was very, very impressed.
Government alone cannot fund sports, it’s never done. It is good that they are looking the way of corporate bodies but you have to also make everything appetizing so that they can still generate some interest.
To be continued in the next edition