Saturday, 9 May 2015

At C.O.D United, it is ladies first

When the C.O.D United Ladies team was set up only two years ago, the goal was to ensure that the huge impact it had made with the men’s team could also be made in female football. With a league that was floundering, structurally weak clubs and scant attention from fans, corporate Nigeria and even the game’s administrators, female football was sorely lacking in direction and opportunities for truly talented young girls were extremely limited.

Having recorded huge success with the men’s team at academy and professional level, the management of the club decided to do something about it and so the C.O.D United Ladies, football team, also known as the amazons,  was set up.

Fast forward 2 years and the club has blazed a trail of glory that has now culminated in the club securing promotion to the top echelon of Nigeria female football, the Nigerian women’s premier league, a laudable feat achieved with the club’s customary adherence to its ethos of DIET; Discipline, Integrity, Excellence and Teamwork and the first by any team in the C.O.D United football structure.  Their promotion is all the more remarkable when one remembers that they have now won back to back promotions in just two seasons of playing as a team.  Speaking on the vision that has propelled the club so far in such a short time frame, the club’s chief executive, Shola Opaleye said it is all down to the power of vision. “Like the male team and our academy, when we conceived the female team,” he starts, “we were always intent on making an impact but in the right way. We were not just looking to make an impact in terms of winning, we were actually looking to make an impact in terms of structure and how we set up the team in such a way that results and success will only be a reflection of the quality of our work. That was why we hired someone like Anne Chiejene as our coach. Apart from her wealth of experience as a coach, we also considered the fact that she always carried and conducted herself in a professional manner.”

g Even more remarkable is the fact that the C.O.D United Ladies team is the first team in the C.O.D structure to gain promotion to the top division of the league system. They played 9 games in all, winning 6 of them and scoring 19 goals along the way, 10 of them by Vivian Ikechukwu whose exploits have earned her a call up to the National U-17 female team. Other players that shown like true stars were the left back, Patience Dike who also featured for the Nigerian U-17 team at the World Cup in Costa Rica earlier this year. Nkechi Agamz and Grace Marcus were also very vital players as the team conquered challenge after challenge on their way to promotion. Not content with winning promotion, the girls also won the Lagos State F.A Cup, defeating F.C Robo by three goals to one. and carting away all the individual prizes including MVP, best coach and best goalkeeper.

The victory over FC Robo is even more satisfying because the C.O.D Ladies lost to the same team in last year’s final. With the victory, C.O.D United also became the first club to win both the male and female Lagos State F.A Cup. It also strengthens C.O.D United’s dominance of football in Lagos as one of its teams has played in the Lagos F.A Cup final in four out of the last five editions, something that makes Sola Aiyepeku, an Executive Director of the club very proud. “Lagos has a very competitive football space and to have our teams in 4 of the last 5 F.A Cup finals is no mean feat. There are many strong teams, male and female and as you know, the F.A Cup is the biggest competition there is in the state.

Teams come into it with a strong determination to do well and we have to match and surpass that. It is something to be proud of. In the 4 finals we have made, we have won 2 and lost the 2 by very close margins and all have been against our closest rivals. What we want to do next is to hold both titles simultaneously and then go and have a real go at the Federations Cup. We know that our dominance is something other clubs will be eager to upturn so we will prepare even harder for next year. We look forward to the increased competition and we will be ready. For their efforts and their achievement of the promotion dream of C.O.D United Football Club, members of the ladies team were treated to a reception by the City of David Church, Victoria Island. Addressing the team, Pastor Idowu Iluyomade, C.O.D United’s number one fan and a firm believer in the impact football can make on young people in the society advised the girls not to rest on their oars but to see their achievement as the start of another journey. “What you have achieved is remarkable and we are proud of you.

We are happy that you have conducted yourself as good girls and represented our club with real dignity. Remember however that the real journey starts now. Achieving success is not the be all, end all. Sustaining it is the real test and I trust you to pass that test. I completely believe in you and I know you won’t let us down. The hard work to stay at the top begins now.” Anne Chiejiene, the chief coach of the team is also proud of her players and says it is the discipline that the girls have shown that thrills her the most. “I always tell my players that while talent is good, discipline is what will make them become successful and they are taking those lessons in. They listen to instructions and take advice.

They work very hard and they are ambitious. They realize they have a big opportunity by playing for a club that wants them to become good footballers but more importantly, great women who can also function and contribute to society off the pitch. The support of the management has been unbelievable as well and I hope other club owners and administrators can learn from it. The women’s game needs people who truly respect the girls and support them the way our management has done. I have been here and there and I see the difference in the level of support that we enjoy. It is a major difference and the girls see that and try to not fail them on the pitch. In all, I am just really happy to be part of something like this. I expect a few of these girls to go on and make a big impact in the women’s game at the senior level.

A few of them are already in the national teams and I am sure more will join. I have also told them that being called to the national team is a call to work harder and not relent. If your performances drop, you won’t be invited again. I have shared my experiences with them and hopefully, they will continue to listen. With the support that we have, I believe this team can make an unforgettable impact in female football. I am very excited about the future.” With so much success achieved on and off the pitch, it is perhaps apt to say that at C.O.D United, it is truly ladies first.

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