Can Francisca Ordega cap off fine 2018 with African POTY award?

The talented forward had a stellar 2018 as she played a key part to Super Falcons dominating the continent once again

COMMENT    By Kunle Fayiga      Follow on Twitter

Nigeria lifted a record extending ninth Africa Women Cup of Nations title in Ghana last month, with forward Francisca Ordega playing an eye-catching role in their latest continental success.

The Washington Spirit forward was arguably the standout player in the squad as she registered two goals and two assists, winning the Woman of the Match award on two occasions.

Ordega won admirers for her skills, power and pace, which she used to trouble defences on a consistent basis.

The former Atletico Madrid loanee was subsequently shortlisted as a finalist for the Caf Women’s Player of Year alongside teammate Asisat Oshoala and South Africa's Thembi Kgatlana. It's hard to identify a clear favourite; Kgatlana was the AWCON top scorer and Player of the Tournament, while holder Oshoala banged in three goals.

Perhaps surprisingly, Ordega isn’t fazed by her prospects of winning the award, citing the choice of voters as the determinant.

"It all depends on how people vote and what they see in the individual player," she told Goal. “There are areas I’m better than them and they better than me, so it's all down to voters.

"Whoever wins, good luck to them."

Should she win the award, it would be a crowning achievement for one of the finest African players of her generation.

Starting out in Nigeria with Bayelsa Queens, Ordega has enjoyed a nomadic career, having plied her trade in Russia, Sweden, Australia, Spain and, presently, the United States.

She had a passion for soccer from an early age, and while her parents were not supportive, the Gboko-born attacker was determined to enjoy a career in the sport she loved.Ordega PS 3

"A lot people play for money, but for me playing soccer is my joy and I take it as a challenge to improve myself because it takes hard work and determination to stand out."

"That I play soccer, which is male dominated, doesn’t change me for who I am. I was created female by God and I have to show it," she stated.

Ordega acknowledges that the women’s game is getting more competitive in Africa, evidenced by Nigeria’s early struggles in Ghana, how the 2018 AWCON hosts were ousted at the tournament group phase, and Mali making it to the semi-finals.

This is a sign that Nigeria’s dominance will be severely tested in the years to come, and that they need to raise their game by preparing better ahead of future tournaments.


Genuine smile... @asisat_oshoala🥰🥰love ya girl

A post shared by ordega (@ordegafrancisca17) on

The Super Falcons will be playing at their eighth World Cup in France in June, but their best performance remains a quarter-final showing two decades ago. Having participated in the 2011 and 2015 editions, Ordega believes the West Africans can make a statement later this year.

"I hope this time is going to be different because we have talented players,” she said. “If we can have good preparation like other countries, I think we can go very far in the competition, because everyone is ready to make a difference.

"I play against many of these players in the US but they are not better them us, it is just better preparation that helps them."

Thembi Kgatlana

Indeed, preparation is key, and African sides have proved that it can make the difference in a tournament environment.

Consider South Africa, who qualified for the global showpiece for the first time after eking every ounce our of their potential with excellent preparation ahead of the AWCON. Their friendlies ahead of the tournament, which came in contrast to Nigeria - who played none, certainly helped them to secure a maiden World Cup showing.

In assessing the state of affairs of the women’s game in Nigeria, Ordega tells Goal that the lack of exposure and support is preventing growth.

Ordega PS

“There is no interest in watching the league; no investment, no sponsor, nothing," she continued. "They have to start from somewhere, run academies, televise the games, get sponsors, promote activities on social media.

"Even the Super Falcons; nobody cares because it's the female team but if it's the Super Eagles, all the sponsorship and attention will be on them."

"The Super Falcons are more successful than the Super Eagles, and we always do our best with the little we have. The Super Eagles get a lot ,but when was the last time they made Nigeria smile at a competition?”

Margret Belemu, Francisca Ordega

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At 25, Ordega has made a name for herself already, from growing and developing in the harsh Nigerian environment to playing across the big female leagues in the world.

With six titles at both club and international level, she's now primed to pick up a maiden crown as Africa's best of 2018.

Even if the NFF don't take heed of her advice regarding what's needed to help the women's game grow in the country, she can expect much more success - both collective and individual - over the coming years of her career.