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Equal pay, U-20 World Cup: Matters arising from ‘Awa’ Female football

Nigerian Women's Football

The Super falcons alone are not Nigerian women’s football, but part of a non-dysfunctional system – and the female players might have to take an unconventional route to solve the myriads of problem facing the game in the country.

The call for equal pay between male and female football is minuscule from the tons of difficulties overwhelming the growth of women’s football. Norway’s Ada Hegerberg, the reigning women’s Ballon d’Or footballer back in 2017 had to walk away from the national team after growing increasingly exasperated with its set-up. Presently, the United States national women team are in a legal tussle with the US Football Federation over equal pay.

While there’s a global and increasing demand for equal pay in terrain like the US, such ground for that back here in Nigeria, where there’s nearly zero attraction to women’s football is unsustainable at the moment.

An equal pay campaign by the US female footballers has been an eye-opener for football authorities and other female footballers in other regions, a lot of looking (education) is needed before leaping (talking) in this regard. Recently, Desire Oparanozie, the captain of the Super Falcons side, at an event demanded that her side is the most successful of any team on the African continent: thus, they deserve equal pay with their male counterparts.

The United States women national team are in a stand-off with the US Soccer Federation over equal pay

“We are the most successful female team in Africa, yet we have the largest disparities between men’s and women’s pay. I think we deserve equal pay. This big gap tells a different story and a proper rethink of this mode of payment could also help the women’s game,” Oparanozie said.

While the captain was within her rights to demand equal pay, her position falls short of the shrewdness on what equality stands for.

Nigerian Women's Football

The prize for winning the last African Women’s Nations Cup was just $80,000 (N29.053 million) – and going for a tournament with just $80,000 as the prize money without no financial sponsors and given a situation where 23 players get $3,000 (N1.09 million) per game, multiplying by six games, without even bringing to the fore camping allowances, the cost that will be paid to the medical, logistics, and technical teams, and cost of accommodation yet – the Falcons are a deserving financial burden for the football federation – after all, it’s not their fault that despite years of dominating the continent, the NFF hasn’t done enough for the proper branding of the team.

Irrespective of what the Falcons bring to the table, unarguably, the state of their welfare needs to be upgraded. However, on the issue of equal pay with their male counterparts, who earn a better financial reward at tournaments and generate nearly 90% of the NFF revenue, the Falcons are undeserving of one for now.

And at such the priority for the female game just like Oparanozie’s vice-captain Asisat Oshoala, pointed out was to uproot the fundamental crisis that has made female football unattractive in Nigeria. The closer we get to sorting out these pressing fundamental issues like zero structure for women’s football, inaccessibility, people’s perception of females involving in sporting activities on the African continent, and the unavailability of facilities, the closer we get to striking the unequal payment structure.

“But in Africa, we have other pressing issues to deal with our football. We need to deal with our structures, facilities, and loads of issues before talking about equal pay. I prefer we rather focus on problems affecting female football in Africa first,” Oshoala responding to talks on equal pay in an interview with Punch.

FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup hosting: An average Nigerian understands the scripting.

What will be the footprint of hosting the FIFA U-20 Women’s U-20 World Cup and of what benefit? A typical statement from the NFF goes thus: “Hosting the World Cup will help to improve our women’s game. The hosting will booster the country’s economy, create more jobs, make more football facilities available,” amidst other archetypal balderdash.

‘Awa’ (our) women’s football is in complete shambles, hosting the U-20 WWC will attract zero scrutiny for the NFF, as no one was even ready to host the tournament at first, the tourney will hardly attract tourism or international media coverage, unnecessary financial burden on partnering state governments at a time the country is not having it good with its economy at all, etc.

Albeit the only good that comes with this hosting is the historical precedence – the first time an African country will host a FIFA-organised women’s tournament. This should go a long way in addressing the perception of many on the African continent that football and sports in its entirety are meant for the male gender and also be a catalyst for football engagement with young girls.

Nigerian Women's Football
Nigeria is set to host the next FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup

Facilities will be built: In 1999 when Nigeria hosted the FIFA U-20 World Cup, facilities built were in complete disarray by the time the country hosted the U-17 tournament 10 years after (in 2009). Where are the ones the country renovated and rebuilt in 2009?

The idea that a country with zero maintenance culture is set to embark on a usual mission of wasting taxpayers’ money again amidst the unending negatives that are concomitant with the idea of hosting an international tournament in Nigeria presently, it’s fair enough to consider hosting the U-20 WWC a mere jamboree and a window dressing aimed at concealing the rotten state of ‘Awa’ women’s football.

Answer lies not in equal pay or hosting the U-20 WWC.

The catalyst to solve the conundrum that is engulfing ‘awa’ women’s football, for now, surely, doesn’t lie in equal pay or hosting the U-20 WWC. It might take the unconventional means no one does ask their male counterparts to take for the development of their games.

In a poll titled: female football and the conundrum of followership conducted by spotkick in 2018, 91.3% of the respondents believe that female football doesn’t have enough followership. On the reason for the lack of followership, 61.3% of the respondents attributed it to low publicity, 22.5% sighted it was less entertaining to male football, while 7.5% chose absence of sponsorship as the major problem of the women’s game.

Nigerian Women's Football

With respect to the issue of sponsorship especially, the female players might need to take the bull by the horn themselves. Asisat Oshoala is amongst the biggest football names in the world, Desire Oparanozie is a global icon as well – they might need to lead the charge of talking to sponsors – especially, sponsors, who will take over the league. This may seem unconventional – and is – but it’s the state in which Nigerian (women’s) football looks to have plunged itself.

Partnering women’s football might not bring the immediate returns (profit or publicity-wise), but it’s a risk investors aren’t afraid of shying away from. In March, Barclays agreed to a £10m record sponsorship with English women’s football. The deal is said to be the largest corporate investment in UK female sport. In Africa, investors might not find administrators enough to entrust them with funds to develop the women’s game. The likes of Oshoala and Oparanozie, who are global icons come with loads of credibility, and any investor will rather key into any proposition to develop the women’s game from these people than the football administrators.

This method might need to take the route of the players themselves employing independent people that will map out the developmental strategy and bargain with the NFF on the hands they want in the running of women’s football affairs.

This is unconventional. It’s the truth. ‘awa’ women’s football has never been healthy in the hands of administrators.  

Olatosimi Fadahunsi278 Posts

Olatosimi is a part-time non-professional footballer and a football writer with spotkick. His ideology/mind/eyes endlessly rove multidimensionally.

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