New Delhi, Feb 17 : Nigerian legend Precious Dede will help the Indian goalkeepers in preparation for the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup which the country will host in November. A World Cupper, Olympian and former captain, the goalkeeper has had 99 caps for the Super Falcons -- with two African Women's Championship titles under her belt and will train the Indian custodians ahead of the mega-event. "In Nigeria, they see me as a role model and refer to me as 'mother' or 'mama'.
When I was playing, my colleagues had a lot of respect for me and now, seeing me as a coach, they transferred that respect to me and made the work easy," she mentioned. Dede broke into the Nigeria senior women's team in 2000 at just 20 years of age and established herself as the first-choice quickly, enjoying a 15-year-long spell as the undisputed number one.
"I was 20 years old and it wasn't easy then because I was still very young to be in the senior team. The coach I had then gave me lots of motivation and encouragement, and made me believe in myself," she recounted. Dede made her World Cup debut in 2003 and featured in a game against hosts USA -- a match that ended in a heavy defeat for the Nigerians.
She said, "I kept my first World Cup in 2003 and it was a tough set of games. However, my most memorable moment was against the USA in the third game. Even though we lost 5-0, I was the most valuable player in that game. "My first World Cup outing wasn't easy. Playing in front of that big crowd seemed too much to take in. However, after the first experience, I came out very motivated and bold for the next one," she continued. With time, Dede learned how to enjoy playing on the big stage and said that it motivated her to bring out her best game.
She said, "By the time the World Cup in 2015 came along, it was like I was always eager to play. I loved playing the big tournaments -- the World Cup and the Olympics. I loved being there and seeing the crowd cheering me on, watching me doing my best and doing what I love the most. Dede's curriculum vitae is something that the young Indian goalkeepers can certainly draw a lot of inspiration from and off the pitch, her persona and leadership qualities will prove to be vital for the development for her wards.
She started off as the goalkeeping coach for the senior women's national team and then moved to the U20 side, before taking up the assignment in India. Dede has been in India for a month now and was a part of the side that finished runner-up at the recently-concluded U17 Women's Football Tournament 2019 in Mumbai. She spoke about her objectives for the coming year and made clear her intention of producing the best goalkeepers in the country.
"I really enjoy working as a goalkeeping coach and the best part is that I don't need to open any book to teach. I haven't come all the way from Nigeria just to visit India or participate for the sake of it. I am here because I want to create the best goalkeepers in India and each game we play, I want our goalkeeper to be the best player on the pitch," she affirmed. (UNI)