LadiesMarch had a chat with Ayisat Success Yusuf on issues that concern the women’s league in Nigeria, the Super Falcons and the way forward. Ayisat is an ex Falcons defender who had her debut for the national team at the FIFA U-19 World Cup in 2002 held in Canada. Since then, she also featured in two All African games for Nigeria ( 2003 and 2007), 2003 African Women championship, 2007 Women’s World Cup and Beijing 2008 Olympics. She is currently a coach in Finland.
LM: Can you tell us how you started playing football and your source of motivation?
Ayisat: I actually started playing football when I was very young from primary school ,though then, I was not really motivated because my parents didn’t allow me play football. I used to be the only girl playing football in my school among the boys, because I’ve got a strong passion for football.
LM: Where did you start your football career?
Ayisat: I started professionally in Lagos with a team called, Vero-Bim Queens that was in 1995/1996.
LM: What was it like playing for Nigeria, were there challenges?
Ayisat: Playing for Nigeria for me is an honour despite the challenges because it is every good player’s dream to play for her national team. I didn’t see the challenge as an obstacle, rather I saw it as privilege for me to showcase the talent. I have got to make a positive prove,mostly to erase negative thoughts about ladies playing football, and see true women empowerment.
LM: The Nigerian women’s league is no longer vibrant. No sponsor, a lot of walk overs, abridged league, How do we correct all of these irregularities?
Ayisat : The clubs have a lot of work to do to assist this players mostly the state teams. They need to work harder by getting good sponsors, good accommodation, better welfare, conducive atmosphere and of course good field with a lot of facilities to get them prepared for games. During our playing days, the league was so interesting, challenging and more competitive. Nothing like abandoned match or walkover except if something drastic happens.
LM: Having watched Super Falcons play at the 2015 FIFA Women Cup in Canada, where did we get it all wrong?
Ayisat: To be honest the world cup in Canada 2015 was painful because i watched all the games. They really had a good start against Sweden but they messed it up and lost the opportunity against Australia, and not qualifying for the Olympics was heartbreaking. Though I understand from what heard that the falcons didn’t get enough time to prepare for the competition proper, no good friendly games, no proper or less training tours. I plead with NFF to please help the ladies in getting adequate preparations for any kind of tournament because no country is push over and female football has grown so fast all over the world now.
LM: The African Women’s Cup of Nations is coming up September and we just have interim coach, are we in the right track?
Ayisat: About the tournament coming up in September, as you can see it’s about six months to the tournament and yet no confirmed coaches for Falcons. The players don’t even know the fate or level of fitness yet, because nobody knows who and who will be selected nor drop for the main tournament. I’m pleading on behalf of the ladies to NFF to please stop this ‘short cut’ to heaven because Angels don’t live in hell fire. These talented girls need to be really motivated so as to give out there best to the Nation. NFF should do the right thing at the appropriate time, let the coaches know their fate, get the player a conducive camp, good food, better field, pay them good wages at the right time, facilities and resources, more training tours and friendly matches.
LM: What do you make of the appointment of Florence Omagbemi as an interim coach of Super Falcons?
Ayisat : I’m fully in support of her being given the chance to coach Super Falcons, she has been coaching for a while and have coaching experience abroad. Also, she’s got a lot of playing experience during her playing days as she was the first Super Falcons captain. She was not just a captain but a charismatic leader that knows what is best and how to handle things amicably.
LM: Do we really need a foreign coach to handle the Super Falcons?
Ayisat: I don’t think that will solve female football or Falcons problem, in the sense that we need to sanitize and eradicate ugly scenes in Nigeria female leagues ,because i believe we have good and experience coaches in Nigeria and abroad.
Ladies Match : Are you still in football now or you are completely out of it?
Ayisat : Well I won’t say I’m out of football totally despite the fact that I have retired from playing active football since 2009 because I am not getting younger. I need to take care of my immediate family and there is always life after football. I am still working in the football field as a coach here in Finland, and also doing a sports related job.
LM: Thanks for speaking with us.
Ayisat: You are welcome.