The Coach of the UNILAG Angels; Unilag’s Female Football Team, Coach Diana, speaks on preparing for NUGA’22, managing the girls, and ways to improve the team’s performance at the next NUGA in this interview with the Managing Editor of UnilagSun, FAITH ENANG, and DEMILADEOGO BANKOLE.
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Dr Diana Ajaine Asak. I am the head coach of Unilag Angels FC and Dannaz FC Ladies.
How was NUGA 2022 for you as the coach for the University of Lagos female team?
NUGA, for me, as a coach for the University of Lagos (gold medalist in the female category), was an excellent experience. It was good being the first coach to win the maiden edition of the female football game in NUGA.
It was a perfect one, and I want to thank God for the opportunity and for all my players who did not give up. Even when everything was not there, we put things together to ensure we succeeded.
To God be the glory, He crowned all our efforts, and we got this. I am delighted and proud of all the girls that represented UNILAG during the just concluded NUGA.
How would you rate your preparation for the games? Would you say you were well prepared before the games, or did you learn as the game progressed?
Preparing for the NUGA games was tough. At first, we started preparation in 2018 when NUGA was supposed to hold in 2019. Unfortunately, it was postponed to 2020, which could not have as well because of COVID-19. It was a difficult task for us as a team and coaches throughout that period.
At that very point in time, there was nothing on the ground. No equipment for training. Not even a ball. We had to sort ourselves as coaches and players to get the little things we were able to get. The preparation from the school as a whole was not extensive.
But, we kept on the faith that we must make this happen. Since it was the first time the authorities would include female football in NUGA. We had to put in everything. Towards the end of the preparation, in December 2021, the school said this must hold and that it would be coming up in March.
That was when they started looking at the girls thinking of giving us some of the materials and equipment we needed that we had asked for years back. We didn’t lose hope because we knew the target we set for ourselves – win the gold medal- so we kept pushing.
What would you say was your biggest strength as a team, and would you say it influenced your win?
The biggest strength as a team was the 3Ds we used as a guideline – discipline, dedication, and determination. The girls were always there; they were disciplined. Most of them had to shun their lectures, assignments, and so on to meet with training.
We were determined. The reason was that with this debut female football, so many people did not believe in them. They were thinking, ‘what will they come out with at the end of this?’ They were determined and focused. It paid off in the end.
If opportunity and your experience at NUGA 2022, would you like to participate in the following games?
I’m sure with my experience now in the NUGA; I’ll love to participate in the next one in 2024 held at the University of Jos (UNIJOS) if the school will do the needful now in terms of preparation. Because, as I said, we didn’t get the needed preparation for this.
It was just personal efforts from everyone who made this happen. We might not have these players or a set of people to make this happen anymore. But, if the school starts preparing on time by giving us the necessary equipment and assistance we need, I think it will help us train more.
Then, we will have to go out for matches. We will need a lot of things to make that happen. Knowing that we will be going outside Lagos state for that makes it more challenging. Other schools will be looking at UNILAG being the winner. Everyone will come out strong against us.
To actually go there and make our mark again, we must prepare hard if the school is ready and willing to do that. The coaches are always on the ground. The players are always there. We will always do our best and ensure we go out there and do what we have done at this year’s NUGA.
What suggestions do you have for improvements in the next Female football NUGA games?
My suggestion for the next NUGA would be early preparation for team UNILAG. If they can assist the players in getting hostel accommodation, that will help immensely.
They should also allow people not yet on the team to join. We are not forgetting that before the next NUGA, which is coming up in 2024, many students will have passed out, so we have to recruit again to beef up the team.
Right now, all participants should be given hostels. We’ll also look at others that will be gaining admission to the University of Lagos if they can join on time to blend with the team.
Most important is the equipment that will be needed, making the facilities ready. If we can do all these on time, it will help.
Also, have lots of friendly matches. Get buses to take the students outside school premises to play friendly games.
Putting all of these together with the right incentive and motivation for the girls, I think we will get a good result when we go for the NUGA at UNIJOS.
Any words of appreciation?
I want to say thank you to some people that stood by us. The VC, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, was present most of the time we played friendly matches. He comes around to encourage us.
Thanks to the girls and my assistant coach, we could come together to finish the work. I want to use this opportunity to thank Miss Popoola for her contribution to the girls’ team.
Thanks to Coach Sanya at the sports centre who gave us 12 new balls we used during the preparation.
I want to thank Club Sider, who gave us friendly matches. These were the things that prepared the team mentally and physically, especially my club side, Dannaz FC.
The club gave the girls the mindset that if they can play against a team like Dannaz FC and they can beat them on their ground, then, definitely, they will beat any other group that comes around.