By Andrew Randa
I haven’t written an opinion piece on women football as far as I can remember. Maybe a match report or a feature on a female footballer, but definitely not an opinion piece.
No, I don’t hate women or women in sports. On the contrary I love women. I really do. I reckon they run the world and they are the salt of the earth.
Err..before I digress, this piece isn’t about my love for women, far from it. It has to do with something I felt was strange and in my opinion (after all this is an opinion piece) distasteful to be complementary to the owners of Rivers Angels.
It goes without saying that female footballers in Nigeria don’t get a fair deal anywhere. Be it the Super Falcons, the Falconets, Flamingoes or even the Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL).
It’s been like that for ages though and seems to get worse by the day.
I first fell in love with women football when I was in primary school. So there was this girl called Barbara. She was a damn good footballer and her keepy-uppy game was better than mine, me, a boy who played for the primary school team.
She fascinated me to bits.
Then came the Super Falcons side of 1991 loaded to the brim with stars. That squad changed the face of women football in Nigeria.
They beat the rest of Africa and qualified for the first ever Fifa Women’s World Cup which held in China in 1991.
I was in awe of the likes of Florence Omagbemi (present coach of the Super Falcons), Uche Eucharia, Omo-Love Branch, Mercy Akide, Nkiru Okesieme and Chioma Ajunwa (who would later go on to claim Olympic gold in 1996 in the long jump event).
Okay, enough of the history lessons and back to the piece.
Something struck me last week when the NWPL kicked off and I felt it was totally unacceptable. It was a stark reminder how Women’s football has been relegated to the background.
It was Rivers Angels second game of the season and they were at home to Lagos side FC Robo. Angels won 3-0 but for me the talking point was the kit the side wore.
It was an eyesore.
The jerseys worn on match day were unworthy of any team in 2017-male or female. I was shocked and appalled at the same time.
I know for a fact that Rivers United have a kit deal with indigenous kit-wear firm Owu which added to my amusement and anger.
Does it mean nothing was done or prepared for the ladies as per the kitting deal? Or they are not that important in the grand scheme of things.
Before you go ham on me, I’m aware the guys in Osun State also have a deal with Owu that captured Osun United and Osun Babes. Can I also add that Kogi United and Confluence Queens (from Kogi State) are both kitted by Danish sports-wear firm Hummel?
Wither Rivers State?
From my investigations (as every responsible journalist should do) I found out that the same kit was used in the first game away at Ibom Angels and the girls were not happy with it.
Some were big and some were too small to fit the girls and then came the ridiculous part of ‘adjusting’ the jerseys to fit.
The kits were reportedly supplied by someone in Aba and they do not match the colors of Rivers Angels as I gathered.
For the reigning champions of the league I think they deserve better than what they are getting at the moment. I don’t even want to go on about the funding and running of the team or even where they are kept.
Or maybe I should just ignore the fact that only two members of the technical crew made the trip for their first away game to Ibom Angels. No goalkeeper trainer, no masseur, no Masseur, no Media Officer and….
Maybe I should just stop and stick to my area of expertise.
I spent some time in the UK and Netherlands last year studying sports branding, sports kitting and a bit of stadium security and crowd control so I think I can be excused if lay out my 20 kobo on the kits Angels are currently using.
Back to the crux of the matter then.
The jerseys carried the Germany based sportswear firm Adidas’s logo but I can authoritatively reveal they didn’t come from Adidas and the jersey design does not in any way fall within the templates the company have produced in the last ten years.
The closest the jersey came to semblance is the current Adidas jersey used by Bundesliga side Schalke 04. But even at that there are appendages on the Angels jersey that isn’t in sync with the Schalke design.
That, in clear terms, is piracy and a lot of clubs in Nigeria are guilty of that and not just the owners and financiers of Rivers Angels.
Even though I’m not a lawyer (I delved into Sports Law but decided against it), but if by chance Adidas decide to cast an eye at Rivers Angels, then they might get sued for aiding piracy and who knows what might happen next.
I’m aware that replica kits as supplied by Owu are sold on match days at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, home ground of Rivers United.
This begs the question to why Rivers Angels were not included in the deal. Surely Owu Sports can make women specific gear for the team or worse case scenario play in what was supplied for United? No?.
Nigerian women hardly get a fair deal in every facet of life and sports is no different. We need to rise above that. The minute things we take for granted (like the kitting issue) can become a clog in our wheel of progress.
Oh! Yes I heard the supplier in Aba has been tasked to get ‘better’ kits and it should be the appropriate colour (I’m trying hard not to laugh).
Rivers Angels are the number one women’s football club in the land at the moment (they did the double last season) and they deserve to be treated better.
So this is a clarion call to those in charge of the team. The kits you’ve provided for the girls is an eyesore to be candid. If Rivers United can be decked with trademarked apparel, I see no reason why the girls will sweat 90 minutes with fake Adidas kits.
It doesn’t speak well of ‘you’ at all. Do the needful.