When Nigeria and South Africa go head to head for the eighth time in the history of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday, there would definitely be a special interest on the sidelines with regards to the only women coaches in the tournament.
Both Nigeria’s Florence Omagbemi and South Africa’s Desiree Ellis, who are pioneers and legends of women’s football in Africa, captained their sides to the final of the eight-nation tournament in 2000. And tomorrow, they will meet again as coaches of both sides, but this time in the semifinal.
“The coach I’m playing against tomorrow used to be my opponent back in the day. She was the captain of the South African team and she’s a good friend of mine. So I’m happy to play against her and she is also looking forward to that. It’s a good competition for us,” said Omagbemi, who captained the Super Falcons to four African titles.
“There’s no pressure regarding that,” she added. “We just want to compete tomorrow. We will have fun but at the end of the day, one team must emerge victorious and that is Nigeria for you.”
Of course, Banyana Banyana’s interim coach, Ellis, still values their friendship, but while also speaking at the pre-match conference on Monday, she insisted on victory for her side.
“Like she (Omagbemi) is aiming for the victory, it would be naive of me to say that we don’t want the victory because our aim from the beginning of the tournament was to get the gold and it’s still our aim to get the gold.
“Pressure will always be there,” she confessed. “There is no running away from that. It doesn’t matter how big or small the occasion is, the pressure is always there.
“Playing against Nigeria, you don’t need any motivation and since it is the semi-final, I don’t think we need to motivate anyone. The players know what is at stake. There is no second chance.”
Since 2000, Nigeria have had the edge over South Africa in all of their meeting. The only exception being 2012, when Janine van Wyk fired Banyana to a 1-0 victory over their nemesis in the semifinal. However, there is still always a score to settle whenever these two sides meet.
Like coach Ellis puts it, “I think it’s the final before the final and it’s going to be extremely tough.”
As regards coping with the physicality of Nigeria, she stated, “we’ve played Cameroon who are physically strong. We gave a good account of ourselves in the first half and showed what we are capable of. So we have a plan for tomorrow and the plan is to be executed 100 percent.”
Ellis would have to make do without one of her key players, Jermaine Seoposenwe in her plan for tomorrow. Having accumulated two yellow cards in the tournament already, Seoposenwe has been suspended for the match against Nigeria.
Meanwhile, coach Omagbemi, said she has no injury concern in her team as all her 21 players are fit and rearing to go. She however hinted at making one or two changes in the line-up for tomorrow.