One of women’s football leading change agent in the continent, ace broadcaster and recently appointed chairman of the Nigeria Women Football League, Madam Aisha Falode popularly called Mama sports assumed office as chairman of the Nigeria Women football league earlier this year and on assumption of office, promised to right all the wrongs of the NWFL spoke with Esther Egbe from National Daily recently about the journey into sports administration and more.
Can you tell me your biological background, your passion and amazing journey with women’s football before your recent appointment?
It is a long story that has been told over and over.But briefly, I had a my NCE in Physical Education, BSc Physical Education and a Post graduate diploma in Mass Communication.
Started my Sports Journalism career with Ray Power in 1996 as one of tge first staff of the first Independent Television AIT.
It was here l learnt from the best in the Industry.Mitchell Obi, Paul Bassey, Ikeddy Isiguzo, Ade Ojeikere. Infact I started one of the best TV Sports Prigramne in Television with this great Icons and I still hold the memories of Saturday mornings closr to heart till date.
Your passion and amazing journey with women’s football before your recent appointment?
I was first appointed into the Women’s football started sometime in 2002. I had worked closely with the Womens team, the Super Falcons once I started my career in sports Jounalism covering one of their tournaments AWC as it was known then to the World cups first in USA in 1999 to each of their tournsments around the world. It was at such tournaments I met Henrietta Ukaigwe and Nneka Anibeze. Two great women whose knowledge of the women’s game is beyond compare and whose friendship I nuture and Cherish till date.
How has been the challenges so far in about 90 days you’ve been appointed as the NWFL chairman?
There are no challenges but what I see as building blocks that must be aligned and structured for the vision of a grounded efifice to come to life.
The expectations of the Nigerian public on this present board is huge and we are not unmindful of the responsibility. That is why we have made every decision based on careful engagements with all and key stakeholders of the Women’s game especially at the club level.
Against all odds and doubts, the Nigeria Women Premier League commenced last weekend, how did your leadership manage make this come true and put up such classy ocassion?
Adhering and sticking to the timelines of our calender is key. The congress we had with the Club representatives in Abuja was an eye opener. Conversation and dialogue are key elements in any gathering of a group of people with different interest if progress must be made.
The presence of the Ondo state’s first lady pulled crowd and added so much glamour to the opening match in Akure, how will you think we can improve fan/audience engagement at the league venues? And is there any plan to leverage on that across league venues around the country?
It was important for the board to set a tone for the 2016/2017 Season. A tone that will give credence to our promise at the congress.The checklist is as follows:
Set a date for the kick off of the season and stick to it.Set a date for club and players registration and gave the clubs three liberties to get registered or forfeit their participation.Bring spectators back to the stands.Make the league competitive and creat an ambience that will be great for the game.Expose the different levels of activation and leverage oppourtunities to different categories on the itending sponsors and patners.
We are being guided by the checklist even though it is just one game into the season we are happy that we see a great prospect
Following the amazing return of the continent’s best women’s league, what do you make of the competitive standard that saw Sunshine Queens overcame Ibom Angels and its prospect?
We were most delighted to have the First Lady of Ondo State Her Excellency Mrs Beatrice Anyanwu-Akeredolu present at the Stadium not for the only reason that Sunshine queens were playing but to support the women in lifting the game to the level we can all be proud of. She will be very involved in what we are doing in the league in the coming days.
The NWFL board could not have had a better tie between this two talented teams to open the season.Three excellent and great goals from the two sides. The tone has been set and the other teams will just have to improve on the
What is the situation on the return of Taraba Queens to the Nigeria women premier league as replacement for Capital City Dove and the reorganizing of the fixtures?
I appeal to all my colleagues to visit any of the match venues hosting the womens leagues to see some outstanding football.The case of Taraba Queens is a unique case. The secretariat was only notified about discussions between this two clubs on Wednesday by Taraba. We told Taraba to show evidence of conclusion of negotiation and hand over on or before Friday. We also asked for the signing and exchange of documents at a press parley. This was to confirm transparency and public documentation of the transaction. We are still waiting and if by tomorrow it is still hanging then we will juggle the fixture.
No doubt, the board has got a lot to do in reorganizing and repositioning the women’s leagues, what are your immediate and long term priorities?
Immediate priorities; all fixtures must be played by the clubs. No work over
Fair officiating.Players welfare and wages is of utmost priority.Bring fans back to the stadium
On the long run, build trust and a credible product that will attrract affinity with specific brand and help build a sustainable and viable structure for the Women’s league.
How much are you doing to ensure players welfare are secured and improved? And is there any measure by your board to ensure they all have contract?
We cannot right all tge wrongs in an instant.The limitations of the clubs must also be recognised. I dont think any of the clubs will deliberately with hold or ignore players welfare and that is why we advised the clubs who are not in the financial state to meet up with their obligations to players to re evaluate their status. We will do all we can to protect the interest if the players including advising and playing an advisory role in the kind of contracts they sign for the clubs.
Probably on the long term, is there plans to secure schemes like life and health insurances for the female players in case of any eventuality seeing their short playing career?
One step at a time. Every decision we take is not on the spur of the moment decision. Our decisions are deliberate and methodical. This too will follow that approach.
A little identity crisis has erupted in the media with the Nigeria Women Premier League been confused for the Nigeria Women Football League which many think remains the organising body of the two tiers, while the second tier called Women Pro League looks needing a new name, has the body noticed this and how soon will it be addressed to boost your drive to create a marketable brand?
As as far the governing structure of the NWFL is concerned the Board of NWFL supervises / orgsnises the two tiers. No ambiguity in our mandate.
Can you tell us what really happened to COD United ladies and their case of disbandment?
Last season was difficult getting informations from the NWFL about the leagues becuase the site was down, are we sure we are going to get consistent information from the official site.
COD disbanded both teams, men and women.The disbandment has nothing to do with the NWFL as the letter if notification indicated tge management wanted to concentrate on other areas of football development.We wush them well and thank them for their contribution to the griwth and development to the Womem’s game.
We know that information is an intergral an vital arm of in our agenda to push out our message ang give exoression to Women’s football. We have embraced all the platforms and thank all our media colleagues for giving us the space very generously for our expression and visibility.