Nigeria break Camerounian hearts to retain African title

Author: Rosalind K. Amoh

Nigeria's female football team last Saturday retained the Africa Women's Championship (AWC) with a 1-0 win over hosts, Cameroun in the final in Yaounde.

The win, struck on the 83rd minute with a Desire Oparanozie's goal, did not only help the Super Falcons to win an unprecedented ninth title, but broke the hearts of the entire host nation, including the President, Paul Biya and his wife, Chantal Biya, who had assumed the Chief Supporter role of the Indomitable Lionnesses at the competition.

Getting to the final without conceding a goal, the Lionnesses were in high spirits, full of confidence of at least, joining Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea on the list of the few' host and win' nations.

The fans had turned up in their red, yellow and green colours, so much in partying mood and were only waiting for the goal and final whistle.

All afternoon, it looked pretty much like the Lionnesses would see their dream come true, putting so much pressure on the Falcons' defence, whose experience kept them safe.

Wasteful in front of goal but unrelenting in their pursuit of victory, with Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene leading the charge, the Camerounians were so sure it would come and were only waiting for that moment, until that Oparanozie goal, unsuspectingly finishing off a low grounder which beat goalkeeper Annette Ndom Ngo.

The Lionnesses tried to roar back but as the minutes ticked away, reality began to dawn on them and their teeming fans, and soon what was to be the beautiful ending of a nation's dream was turning disastrous.

And when the final whistle went, the tears from players on the pitch and among the fans in the stands, were understandable. No number of hugs, or amount of words were consolable enough for that missed chance to grab the title which was just within a touch, and failing to win against Nigeria in the final for a third time.

For the champions, it was the ending they had hoped for for a script they had well rehearsed since 1998 when they first won the AWC.

They also helped their coach, Florence Omagbemi, to join the history makers as the first female to lift the title as a player and a coach.