Bayelsa Queens on Sunday beat NWFL Premiership defending champions, Rivers Angels, 4-3 on penalties to win the maiden edition of Betsy Obaseki Women’s Football Tournament on Sunday.
The game had ended goalless in regulation time after series of chances spunned by the two sides forwards. Rivers Angels with their tormentor in Chief, Ezenagu MaryAnn and Precious Christopher pushed the ‘Jewel of Rivers’ with lot of chances created in the first half as they outplayed their opponents, but poor finishing was their undo as they went into the dugout disappointed.
The second half started in no time and this time it was the turn of the ‘Restoration Girls’ who put up good performance and had better half than their opponents who struggled with the pace of the likes of Anjor Mary, Sunday Juliet, Bashiru Kafayat, Celine Ottah, and Favour Emmanuel; but just their opposing side, their finishes in front of goal were nothing enough to get them the needed victory.
A minute before the final whistle, the coach of Bayelsa Queens, Omoh Okara, made a tactical substitution by sending in reserved goalkeeper, Chichi Sandra for Okeke Onyinye for the kicks from the penalty mark.
The shoot out
As expected from her Coach, Chichi Sandra guessed right to stop Ikenokwalu Ifeoma’s kick, the second for Rivers. From her end, Rivers’ Adjei Charlotte guessed right to save Fehintola Maboinje’s kick, same direction as Sandra. Evelyn Nwabuoko with her experience was expected to pile up pressure on Bayelsa Queens with her last kick, but the penalty specialist, Sandra calculated well, dived to her right and saved the former Super Falcons’ captain’s kick. All eyes were afterwards on captain of the ‘Restoration Girls’, Igwe Uzoamaka to win the game with her last kick. She picked up her ball, set it on the spot, moved back by 4 feet, counted five feet forward and the wrong way, she sent Adjei Charlotte and whisked away in joyous celebration just as her team emerged champions.
Earlier in the day, host team, Edo Queens converted five spot kicks, two more than FC Robo Queens to win the third place match; the former came back from behind to equal FC Robo’s Opeyemi Ajakaye’s 45th opener, through Odueke Omotoke who jabbed in from Essien Emem’s assist on the 68th minute. Though not an outfield player, but the talks about Edo Queens’ third place finish will not be completed without mentioning the heroic performance of goalkeeper, Nkiruka Obidinma who stopped as many Robo’s shots on target to keep her team in right position to win the match.
Benefits for players and team
The tournament which featured twelve teams; 8 clubs in the NWFL Premiership, championship and amateur league, from both the northern and southern parts of the country- Edo Queens, FC Robo Queens, Heartland Queens, Sunshine Queens, Rivers Angels and Bayelsa Queens, Rolly FC Queens, Fortress Ladies, Naija Ratels, Kaduna Queens, Confluence Queens and Royals Queens- saw the tournament’s champions Bayelsa Queens rewarded with the sum of #5 million, Rivers Angels with #3 Million; third placed team, Edo Queens went home with #2 million and #1 million was handed to FC Robo Queens as consolation while other participating teams got #500,000 as participating fee.
Additional individual/team awards are – Edo Queens won the fair play award, Monday Gift of FC Robo with 8 goals in the tournament won the golden boot and exceptional MaryAnn Ezenagu of Rivers Angels won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Faith Omilana of Naija Ratels despite conceding 3 goals with no single victory won the golden gloves.
The closing ceremony featured a lot of side attractions and display of arts and culture to treat to satisfaction, the guest, teaming fans, officials and players. Edo cultural dance, selected motivational foreign music, the tournament theme song and some performance all featured in the closing ceremony to the admiration of all in attendance.
The local organising committee of the competition as led by Mrs Sabina Aimienenogha Chikere, made it easy for spectators across the state to grace the final day of the much talked about tournament as buses were made available in strategic areas to convey fans down to the stadium. Not only that, every individuals present at the stadium were treated to pleasure as they were served a well packaged sumptuous meal – well dished rice with as big as you could describe roasted turkey on it alongside drinks and small chops.
Present dignitaries at the event were the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu and his wife, Mrs MaryAnn Shaibu; the minister for youth and sports development, Chief Sunday Dare, the First Lady of Bayelsa State, Dr Gloria Diri, the Osun State First Lady, Mrs Rukayat Oyetola, NFF First Vice President, Barr Seyi Akinwumi and Ibrahim Gusau. Former executive governor of Edo state Chief Lucky Igbinedion, the acting Chief Judge of Edo state, Joe Acha amongst others completed the creme de la creme of individuals present.
The First Lady, after the presentation of trophies, awards and medals, carried out by dignitaries on ground, in her closing ceremony’s speech harped on her desire to keep this working, even after her husband’s time in office as the governor. Here are key points of her speech.
1: Our girls will adopt one girls school each to mentor the girls and encourage them on becoming useful to their society, through their skills and godgiven talents
2: This will come better next year as we will complement this year’s successful outing with something more better next year.
3: There’s hope for our girls and they will surely be supported by my foundation in anyway we can, to give them the enablement to achieve whatever they want to.
4: We are crusaders against girl-child trafficking for whatever purpose and have his tournament is initiated to create awareness of our campaign against girl-child trafficking. Our girls are useful, they are brilliant and they have future.
These girls are valuable, they are priceless and as such, a price should not be placed on them. They are beautiful, much more than you see.
They are the future and that’s why we have brought them to play together – against girl child trafficking. We say No to child sex slavery!
After this, the First Lady, Mrs Betsy Obaseki led all invited guests of honour and others to the government house, GRA for a dinner which was done in strict adherence to the COVID-19 guidelines.
After the final, scorerfootballmagazine.com took to the street to gather some opinion of the fans about the tournament.
Ikpomwonsa from Ramat Park: “I’m so happy that we saw something big like this in our state after the national sports festival, they tried.”
Osahon from Ugbowo: “At a point, I thought the teams are not from Nigeria. This is the first time I will see women play top competition like this live, before it has always been the Super Falcons on television.”
A drinks vendor at Sports complex, Uniben: “Oga, I’m very happy oooo, infact na lie nor good, I sell well well for this one week. E be like say make dem continue everyday.”
A cab driver: Well, I will say kudos to the organisers for putting this together and for looking at the women football; it’s not everytime that they should be spending on the men, this women also have talents.”
Some of my colleagues, off the records also appreciate the fact that this has brought about meaningful exposure to some of the amateur sides that feature in the tournament and are of the opinion that this can definitely be greater if well organised in the next edition.
Scoring the organisers
From the security personnel, the media, logistics, welfarism; based on my assessment of the competition and without prejudice, fear or favour, I will score the competition 72 over 100. There are still gray areas that need to be worked on, surely they will as these are already channeled to the LOC for further review and way forward.
Betsy Obaseki Women Football Tournament, though came as a surprise tournament as initiated by the First Lady herself, worked on and supported by the State’s deputy governor and other key actors of the state’s sports scene. The preparation, the organisation, logistics, media, welfarism and on the field activities by all dedicated players, though first edition is undoubtedly a great success and will continue to be the talk of the town, especially in the women’s football sphere. However, a lot of adjustment and review must be worked on if the next edition which could feature teams from outside the country is anything to go by. Kudos to the Organisers, participating teams, players, officials, fans and all stakeholders.
Ayoola Adeleke reporting from Benin City
Betsy Obaseki Women Football Tournament 2022, Ghia-khian!