Ever since the African Women's Championship tourney was launched in 1998, the Nigerian national women's team has dominated women's soccer on the Mother Continent.
They've won this tournament five times, but the defending champion Super Falcons suffered a shocking 1-0 loss on Tuesday in the tournament semifinals to the hosts from Equatorial Guinea. It set off a wild celebration in the capital city of Malabo and denied the Super Falcons a chance to take home their sixth title.
Instead, for the first time in the ten year history of the African Women's Championship, the Nigerians will be playing for third place on November 28 versus Cameroon while the hosts head to the title match versus South Africa on Saturday.
The reason I'm mentioning it is because gender issues reared their ugly heads in the pre-match gamesmanship and the whining from the losing team after the match.
One of the tired recurring themes in women's sports is the fear that in order to gain a competitive advantage, men will either dress up as women in order to win individual sports glory, be ordered to do so and be placed on those teams by higher level political (or sports) officials hungry for prestige, or feed their female athletes testosterone as the East Germans did all in the name of garnering international sporting glory and prestige.
Despite the fact that rumors the USSR's medal winning Press sisters Irina and Tamara were males that interestingly enough both retired from international competition prior to the institution by the IOC of gender testing before the 1968 Olympic cycle, the only nation (so far) busted for actually doing so is Nazi Germany in the 1936 Olympics.
They forced Hermann Ratjen, who had ambiguous genitalia, to live as Dora for three years and compete in the Olympic women's high jump as Dora. There was also the same 'that's a man' shade thrown in the 1936 Berlin Games 100m final at Helen Stephens after she upset defending Olympic champ Stella Walsh in then world record time.
The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) spent several days before the semifinal match with Equatorial Guinea grousing about two players in general, Binguisa Simpore and Salimata Simpore. They demanded that the CAF (Confederation of African Football) do gender tests on them prior to the match and when the CAF deferred action on the protest until next month, threatened to boycott the match.
Super Falcon Lillian Cole stated in a Guardian (Nigeria) interview," I am not trying to give excuses for our inability to make it to the final, but sincerely speaking, it would be difficult for a team made of female players to beat those Equatorial Guinean team. We played against men and it is so unfortunate for CAF to allow 'men' to be playing in a nations cup meant for women.
"Those two players (Binguisa Simpore and Salimata Simpore) are men no matter how somebody will try to convince me. Even their captain, Anonma Genoveva is more of a man than a woman. I expected CAF to act on the protest filed by Nigeria before the match."
Maureen Eke echoed her teammate, asserting that the presence of those two 'men' in the Guinean squad stopped the Falcons from operating smoothly.
"We did everything within our limit to break into their defense but you saw how the 'boy' in their defense was using his power to block every move we made. He didn't give us any space at all because he has the power of a man and it was very wrong'
Meow, ladies. You lost, get over it.
Equatorial Guinea team captain Genoveva, one of the targets of Cole's sour graping, showed more class than her vanquished opponents did. She tearfully called it a dream come true at the post match press conference.
"Nigeria is a big country filled with experienced players. But for this tournament, we prepared extremely hard and I am happy it is coming in my time."
Bottom line, if Precious Dede stops Genoveva's free kick in the 58th minute from going into the net, y'all might have been playing in the finals despite the fact you've only scored two goals in this entire tournament.
The Nigerian women need to look in the mirror in terms of who lost this tournament. As I can tell you firsthand from being a fan of the USA basketball dynasty, it doesn't last forever.
While you're coasting on past glory and feeling it's your birthright to win international titles, the teams you beat up on in those international competitions will eventually get tired of taking sports beatdowns from you. They stop being 'scurred' and in awe of being on the same field with you, get mad and begin working smarter and harder to dethrone you. Sooner or later their hard work is rewarded and they begin getting the lucky bounces in games that eventually lead to just what happened to the Super Falcons on Tuesday.
So just like the Team USA men's b-ballers had to reorganize the way they did things after the embarrassing losses in the 2002 FIBA Championships (on home soil no less) and the 2004 Athens Games, stop making excuses, roll up their sleeves and start working, looks like the same thing needs to happen in Nigeria with the women's soccer team.
And to Lillian Cole, Maureen Eke and all the other Nigeria Super Falcon women, I'd be careful who you disrespectfully call men because you're mad you lost. Some of y'all don't exactly look like Nigerian supermodel Oluchi Onweagba or Nollywood starlets.
And stop the whining, excuse making and denigrating your opponents. It's the first step to getting your international championship groove back.
TransGriot Note: Update peeps- Equatorial Guinea went on to win the AWC by defeating South Africa 2-1. The Nigerians took home the bronze medal after a 1-1 draw with Cameroon was settled on penalty kicks.
Genevova, one of the players the Nigerians were hatin' on, scored the game winning goal. In fact she personally scored more goals (six) than the Super Falcons collectively did in the entire tournament.