Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Women's World Cup 2023: Nigeria women's team 'grateful' for government reward – BBC

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Onome Ebi and Osinachi Ohale celebrate Nigeria's qualification for the Women's World Cup knockout phase
Defender Osinachi Ohale says Nigerian players are "grateful" after each being rewarded with US$10,000 (£7,800) by the country's government for reaching the last 16 at the Women's World Cup.
The Super Falcons' discipline propelled them through a group containing co-hosts Australia and Olympic champions Canada before they were eliminated on penalties by England after a 0-0 draw.
Nigeria's first lady Oluremi Tinubu, the wife of president Bola Tinubu, praised the "unbreakable spirit and unwavering strength" when she hosted team members and officials, external at the presidential villa in Abuja before announcing the unprecedented reward.
"We are grateful for this unexpected gesture because for several years we've been winning the Women's Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) and I can't remember us being honoured or rewarded this way," the experienced Ohale told BBC Sport Africa.
"We appreciate the federal government for their support and encouragement. And we also thank Nigerians for the remarkable support during the tournament.
"Nigeria is a country where the public appreciate good things. When you do something good, they will show appreciation, and when you don't do well, they will still show it – they will forget the good things you've been doing, so that's how it is," she laughed.
"I'm just happy we were able to put a smile on their faces."
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It is not only the federal government that has been hosting or rewarding players of the nine-time African champions – in direct contrast to years gone by.
On multiple occasions in the past, the team has fought for money owed to them – to the point of even boycotting training ahead of a match last year.
The governor of Imo state, Hope Uzodinma, also met four players, external from the state – Chiamaka Nnadozie, Tochukwu Oluehi, Desire Oparanozie and Ohale – handing out $10,000 to each and promising the quartet a piece of land.
Back in July, Uzodinma gave six players from Imo $6,300 (£4,940) after they helped the Super Falcons reach the 2022 Wafcon semi-finals in Morocco.
"Uzodinma is like a father and has been showing his support throughout the tournament," Ohale added.
"We can't really thank him enough because it goes a long way to show that now people are really watching games. I'm happy and grateful for the rewards."
The Super Falcons were unbeaten for the first time at the Women's World Cup, exiting only after losing a penalty shootout
Players have also been feted in Osun and Lagos, with Lagos governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu using social media to proclaim that the team's performance "has ignited a new era of enthusiasm, external for women's football in Nigeria", bringing a "truly remarkable" unity to the country.
Meanwhile, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Ibrahim Gusau has assured the team they will receive their 2023 World Cup prize money in addition to unpaid bonuses, allowances and expenses dating back to 2021.
Last week, global players union Fifpro revealed it was helping Nigeria's women in a dispute with the NFF, but Gusau was unhappy about the timing of the intervention, reiterating in a local radio interview that the players are already entitled to $60,000 (£47,000) each from tournament organisers Fifa.
Fifpro helping Nigeria's women in bonus row
"If you have an outstanding (debt) for over two years, is that the time that you create distraction for yourself?" he said.
"It is only when we have the money that we can use it to pay such kind of payment.
"We can use the prize money we are getting from Fifa to pay any outstanding and the coach of the Super Falcons. That is what we will do."
Nigeria are the only African side to have appeared at all nine Women's World Cups and nearly a fortnight on from their heart-breaking exit at the hands of England, who will contest Sunday's final against Spain, forward Asisat Oshoala has been reflecting on the team's run at the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
"I'm very happy with the team. It was interesting for us to get out of the group stage and go to the next round," Nigeria's star player told BBC Sport Africa.
Asisat Oshoala celebrated her match-winning goal against Australia by removing her shirt in celebration
"Obviously we were unlucky in our last match but I'm really proud of the team – amazing team spirit, amazing effort from the girls and it can only get better."
Oshoala attracted attention when celebrating her late matchwinner against co-hosts Australia – a match Nigeria won 3-2 to secure their sole victory – by removing her shirt in celebration.
Given she has scored over 30 goals for the Super Falcons without celebrating in that style, not even when winning three Wafcon titles, why act in such fashion this time around?
"I think the team just needed that at that moment and I was happy we were able to get it as a team, not because it was me but because I know the girls deserved it. There was a whole lot of hard work put in before the game.
"I did the celebration because I was just in my moment and my family – the most important people to me – understood this."
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The 28-year-old was speaking at her girls-only academy in Lagos, which was opened through her foundation last year.
The five-time African Footballer of the Year is providing training three times a week to girls between the ages of 12 and 18.
"I didn't even know female teams existed," said the Barcelona forward, thinking back to her youth.
"I decided to set up an academy because of the hardship I went through. I just took it upon myself to make things easier for the younger generation."
The financial rewards being given to Oshoala and her Nigeria team-mates would appear to show how much things have changed.
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