PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 20: Midfielder Maureen Mmadu #15 of Nigeria dribbles the ball against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea during the first round Group B game of the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup at Lincoln Financial Field on September 20, 2003 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. North Korea defeated Nigeria 3-0. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

A lie allowed to fester, they say, will soon be seen as the truth, and this is the situation a part of Nigerian football has found itself in.

Circa three years ago, there was a spurious claim on Social Media that former Super Falcons midfielder, Maureen Mmadu had played a century of games for the team. At first, it was laughable, but no one really challenged it, at least not officially.

On hearing those claims, I chuckled, because I had followed every Falcons game from 1991 until present day and watched a large proportion of them. Without calculations, I knew Maureen did not have a hundred games, nor anything close to it. Maybe, the movement was going to die down, but it didn’t. It got louder, slowly.

Maureen too, I believe, when told at first, knew in her heart that she did not play up to that number of games, but whatever they did, or said to convince her was strong enough and she began to believe the hype.

Why I don’t blame Maureen Mmadu

Maureen will believe anything she is told and it takes nothing away from her. Athletes do not keep records. They just compete. The media and other statisticians do this and make it known to them and the world.

As a secondary school student in the 80s reading the autobiography of Pele, he said in a part of the book that while playing and scoring, a group of journalists came to him and said he was on the verge of scoring 1000 goals. He was on 990 at the time. Pele said he had no idea until they told him that. He was later said to have scored over 1270, a number that was drastically reduced by FIFA a while later as a lot of those goals were not scored in full international games.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Mohammed Sallah have no time to count their games and goals. There are people tasked with this.

Mmadu was told she had a hundred games under her belt, but who are these people that told her, and what was their agenda? What did they hope to achieve? Surely they know it is a lie.

Maureen has spent the last few years training kids from the grassroots

What Mmadu’s handlers should have done

In August 2017, I came out with a claim that I had watched 947 football matches at Stadia across the world. I also began my countdown to 1000 games.

As the countdown got to 990, I called a press conference in Port Harcourt where the sporting media, most of them baying for blood, were present. I had to put up evidence that I was close to a thousand games including a list of all games I watched plus other added information.

Eventually, my 1000th game on April 15th, 2018 at the Krisdera Hotel Stadium in Omoku between Go Round FC and Niger Tornadoes had the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC send a team to cover it and produce a short documentary for good measure.

Now, apart from making a proclamation, Maureen Mmadu’s team has gone on to attack and insult opposing voices on Social Media. However, what I expected her handlers to do is to have come out with a comprehensive list of the 100 games she played as a Super Falcons player, from her 1st to her 100th.

But, the thing is, they cannot do this. They cannot give us a list of the 100 games because, in the period Maureen played for the Super Falcons, that team did not have up to 100 games so there is no way she would have played more games than the team in question.  

What the NFF should do

The Nigeria Football Federation should have put an end to this rubbish long ago. If a former player and staff of the Federation is out there making claims that are said to be false, then the Federation should have issued a statement earlier.

Their loud silence on this issue is one of the reasons that has caused it to degenerate to this extent.

It takes just a 500-word press statement from the media office of the NFF to accept or reject this claim. It’s strange that they have stayed mute. They should do the needful, now!

Maureen Mmadu does not deserve this

Whoever put Maureen Mmadu up to this did not do right by her. I do not want to be Maureen right now- thinking she has been neglected by the NFF, maybe the media is against her, or that there are just haters all over.

She probably has eggs on her face right now as she wants to prove she played 100 international games, but can’t hold on to anything. Maureen Mmadu, for all she did with the Super Falcons, winning multiple Women Africa Cup of Nations titles, and playing in four World Cups and 2 Olympic Games deserves much more than this.

She’s being made to be the villain when she should be a hero.

Maureen at one of her grassroots training camp

What the experts say

Renowned Nigerian statistician and historian, Kunle Solaja spoke on this- “She does not have up to 50 caps, let alone 100. It was an error committed by a German journalist who compiled it. He admitted the error in private communication with me. He said that he contacted the then-NFA in 2004 while compiling stats on teams that qualified for the Olympics. Lizzy Onyewenwa who was then the head of women’s football at the glass house gave estimates. The journalist then used that as the base for further calculations. Mmadu debuted for Nigeria on 8 June 1995 when Nigeria played 3-3 with Canada. From that point till she was pronounced a Centurion, even the Falcons had not played 100 matches.”

Clement Nwankpa wrote on a WhatsApp group chat, “… I personally wish she truly had 100 caps, but it is hard to even list those caps when the national team didn’t play up to 100 matches during that period. I have a list of Yobo’s 100 caps; Enyeama’s 101 and Musa’s 105, even Mikel’s 96 (that is the exact matches that make up those caps). But we can’t list Mmadu’s caps from 1 to 100. I kept Yobo’s records while he played and when we were planning his testimonial, I had 101 caps, but somebody drew my attention to one of the matches listed (a game played in Warri) which Yobo didn’t feature. I checked my records and pegged Yobo’s cap at 100. The caps will not exist in the sky. They represent matches played in the green and white colours. And we should count them on our fingers.”

We should this matter to rest, now. I expect those who started this to tender an apology to Maureen Mmadu, for the embarrassment and to Nigerians as a whole.

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