Equal pay for male, female athletes impossible in Nigeria

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Inegbenebor Osereme, an award-winning Nigerian sportscaster, talks about the Super Falcons, her love for Lionel Messi, the pains she suffered supporting Chelsea and more, in this interview with JOHNNY EDWARD

How did you become a sportscaster?

I’ve always had this dream of becoming a television presenter but not a sports TV broadcaster actually. I started honing my skills right from University of Benin. I also worked at a media outlet for some months before the big breakthrough came when I got a call from a friend that a football website, Goal.com, needed a female content creator and the fact that I had a good knowledge of football, I applied and luckily I got the job after two weeks.

So, were you involved in sports while growing up?

I was never involved in sports growing up. I didn’t like getting involved in any sport but I did a bit of Karate.

Was your involvement in Karate down to self-defence against assault?

Not really. It was just for fun, honestly. I enjoyed it a lot and in a way, I use it as a good mode of exercise.

The Super Falcons ended a 16-year wait to qualify for the women’s football event at the forthcoming Olympics in Paris. What do you make of this feat?

It’s impressive obviously because 16 years is a very long time. It did not come as a surprise to me because I knew that the Falcons were going to edge South Africa. There was a lot to play for in that tie. Their performance in both legs against South Africa was fantastic. Their impressive form at the World Cup in Australia was sustained during the Olympic qualifiers and that helped secure the Olympic ticket. Imagine Chiamaka Nnadozie kept five clean sheets during the qualifiers and that has gone unnoticed.

At the Olympics, the Falcons will face world champions Spain, former world champions Japan and Brazil. Do you think they can qualify from this ‘group of death’?

It’s a tough group I must admit but anything can happen against these big teams. We’ve seen it happen against the greatest teams in football. A good example was the recent Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast. We saw the top teams crash out of the tournament quite early. For sure, I know we have a good team that can be better before the Olympic Games begin. All we need is proper preparations and that can make us compete well.

The coach (Randy Waldrum) needs to step up a bit because he is not flexible. There are other players who can come into the starting line-up and make an impact.

I remember the last WAFCON, against Morocco in the semi-finals. Waldrum kept faith with Ifeoma Onumonu, even though she was exhausted, and she played 120 minutes. You could literally see that she could faint on that pitch but then the coach didn’t replace her because he had faith in her and even allowed her to play a penalty, which she blazed away. So, I just think he needs to change a few things in the team. The Falcons have some great and exciting players that have not been tested. We also need early preparations to put up a good show in Paris and hopefully we surpass our best feat: the quarter-finals. I just think the NFF needs to give more support. It is an overflown issue already, but we know about how the Falcons do not get as much support from the NFF as the Super Eagles. And you listen to conversations about how the Eagles have been sellable to the market and have a lot of sponsors.

Which players do you think could made the difference if handed the opportunity?

A player like Gift Monday could have a great impact on the team. She can freshen up the team’s attack. Esther Ajakaye, who recently made her debut is another good player.  He (Waldrum) needs to inject these players into the team to have options at his disposal.

What advice would you give to the federation to ensure that the Falcons surpass their quarter-finals feat in Paris?

Like Aisha Falode will say,  the Falcons are Nigeria’s best bet for Nigeria to win her first World Cup title at senior level. To this end the Falcons need more support in terms of infrastructure and funds to help them attain the heights we expect them to reach.

What are your thoughts on equal pay for both men and women in sports?

I’m a realist, sincerely. It would be great for this to happen, but in this clime, it can’t because, like I said, a lot of money is being pumped into men’s football than what has been thrown into women’s football.

 Which football club do you support?

Manchester City.

When did you start supporting the Cityzens?

Recently, last season. I used to be a Chelsea fan but I was tired of the pains they made me pass through. So, I decided to dump them for ‘The Light Blue’ team because they’ve been winning titles. I’d rather stay at a place where happiness is guaranteed. Chelsea gave me constant heartaches since Todd Boehly took over.

 If you’re a coach and you have to pick between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, which would you pick?

 I’m a big fan of Messi, so I’d go with the Argentine.

 So, do you think City can still win the Treble this season?

I think they can. They are firmly in the race for the Champions League after that superb game against Real Madrid, the EPL and the FA Cup. They are the best club in the world.

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