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A sigh of relief as new coach Dennerby promises to fly high with Nigeria's Falcons

From the left is Shehu Dikko, 2nd vice president of the Nigeria Football Federation, Super Falcons player and reigning African Football of the Year Asisat Oshoala, new coach Thomas Dennerby and Falcons player Onome Ebi at the unveiling in Abuja on Tuesday, January 30, 2018. (Photo by NFF)
by Ijeoma Okigbo, Nigeria

ABUJA, January 31, 2018 - The arrival of the new Super Falcons coach will open a new chapter for Nigeria's national women’s football team with the bar now set even higher.

This week Swedish Thomas Dennerby was unveiled as the new coach of the Super Falcons after a long wait and he immediately declared his commitment to take the team to the next level. “My philosophy is to get best out of every player and the coaching staff," said Dennerby. "The best way to improve the team is to work together and I am looking forward to working with the members of staff."

"I also place big demands on the players to do their best in a training sessions or competition and being professional every single time even when eating or sleeping," explained the Swedish coach. "I have a ‘strong will to win’ attitude and I am sure the players have a similar attitude. I believe we can all work together to close the gap between the top women’s football playing nations of the world and Falcons. So, I look forward to doing my job.”

The search for a coach for Africa’s foremost football power house, following the exit of Florence Omagbemi, who led the team to the 2016 Africa Women Cup of Nations title in Cameroon, lasted for over 365 days. The team came close to hiring American Randy Waldrum in October but instead opted for the coach of the University of Pittsburgh’s women’s team in December.

After a keenly contested selection process, Dennerby, who is rated among the top five female coaches in the world, according to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), was appointed due to his huge profile and achievements. During his days as the coach of the Swedish national team, the team featured at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games and the 2007 and 2011 FIFA World Cup finals, winning bronze at the latter tournament.

He won 34 caps for Swedish junior teams between 1975 and 1981 and, more recently, did scouting and analyses for the Swedish FA at the 2013 and 2017 European Championships and the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.

The Swede understands its his task to rebuild the team. “I am honoured and excited to be here. It is a big challenge and I look forward to doing my best,” said Dennerby, who will be assisted by compatriot Jorgen Petersson and Nigerians Olarenwaju Oni and Maureen Mmadu. He sparked laughter when he cracked an apt joke. “I am not going to be a flying coach, I am going to live here,” said the new coach.

Since last year’s victory in Cameroon the team has not kicked the ball, in part due to the ‘absence of a coach’ according to Ayo Omidiran, a lawmaker and chairperson of NFF women’s committee.

To stamp his authority on the continent’s women’s football, the new coach’s task will be to take the team beyond Africa and challenge for top honours at global competitions like the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. “It is for this reason that Dennerby was chosen,” said Shehu Dikko, NFF second vice president. “We believe we have the right man to take the Super Falcons and women’s football in Nigeria to the next level, counting on his pedigree and capacity.

“Winning eight out of 10 AWCON titles shows our dominance in Africa but we want to conquer the world as well,” highlighted Dikko.

The Swede proposed for the team to feature in the Cyprus women’s Cup invitational tournament in February in a bid to improve Nigeria’s pedigree. The NFF approved the motion.

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