There are traditionally three stages to the intimate familial relationship between a Nigeria football supporter and the national team.

The first stage is the dutiful stepchild: wide-eyed, grateful, tremulously in thrall to these manly invincibles. Then comes a middle period of cajoling big brotherdom, the years of tortured hope where anything seems possible and you just think if only the ladies could, you know, if they could only just, if the women could.

Finally, submerged beneath a coastal shelf of accumulated disappointments you enter the mother-in-law phase. Nothing makes you happy.

Nothing is ever good enough. We should have been Yankees instead – and don’t think we didn’t have offers.

In the past week I seem to have located another stage, a hidden fourth gear of Super Falcons fandom that is a little more well disposed, infused with an urge to forgive and forget, to hug these dear cowering creatures to your yolk-stained dressing gown. This state of benevolent senility is, I believe, a reaction to a new kind of rock bottom being reached. We lost 4-2 to South Africa at the Aisha Buhari Cup.

It doesn’t even matter when you read this article: the fact of Banyana Banyana’s fluent, domineering victory was already established long before the tournament. We know that Super Falcons didn’t have much of the ball at the Mobolaji Johnson Stadium.

This is perhaps understandable given that they played a fast side. But there is something else too, an unusual case of footballing symmetry.

In the win over Mali, the Super Falcons weren’t convincing until Monday Gift climbed off the bench to bag a brace. Our experienced players ran out of gas and clearly struggled.

Things have changed in women’s football. In the past we dominated African Football irrespective of the opposition. Now countries have bridged the gap.

This time, though, there are no excuses. It is all quite bracingly up front. It turns out you can revise for football: shorn up behind those teenage years of skill refinement. There is need to weed out some tired legs in the current Super Falcons squad.

There are greenshoots at the bottom end and there are lingering gilded thirtysomethings.

This is why we should perhaps just enjoy the collision of total opposites. Our own lost generation against the outright historical ascendancy of fast developing African sides, who have pretty much a free hit here.

The likes of Rasheedat Ajibade, Monday Gift and Chidinma Okeke should be made the bedrock of the new generation of Super Falcons team.


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