The Super Falcons have already exceeded expectations at the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and they are now just a draw away from reaching the last 16 of the tournament.
Their defensive organisation and tactical approach have been most commendable, while the individual displays of goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, defender Osinachi Ohale, Rasheedat Ajibade and Asisat Oshoala have equally caught the eye.
Against the spirited Republic of Ireland Monday morning they only need to avoid defeat to reach the Round of 16 for the second straight World Cup.
But unlike the case in 2019, when they embarked on a pay strike right there in France, the Falcons now know exactly what they are playing for.
Several players here at the World Cup have not forgotten that rather than to be celebrated for winning an eighth WAFCON at the expense of hosts Cameroon in 2016, they were holed up in their Abuja hotel for days in protest over the non-payment of their bonuses and allowances.
But at this World Cup, their personal bonuses are guaranteed by FIFA and it will change the lives of many of them.
It is on record that the global salary of women’s professional footballers is approximately $14,000 annually so the amounts allocated under this unprecedented new distribution model will have a real and meaningful impact on the lives and careers of these players.
Each player will pocket $30,000 (about 24 Million Naira in Nigeria today) for playing in the group stage, while reaching the Round of 16 will give a player double that amount, which is $60,000 or 48 Million Naira in Nigeria.
And should they make it to the last-eight, each Super Falcons player is guaranteed $90,000 (72 Million Naira) by FIFA.
Do you now know why Ohale in her fourth World Cup literally put her life and limbs on the line of fire to score the Falcons second goal against Australia?
A top national team official told me today: “The girls are ready to die to earn as much as they can at this World Cup.
“In Africa, cash is a major motivator for the players, whether we like it or.
“That explains why the Falcons laboured to qualify for the World Cup at the WAFCON because they were not certain how much they will earn there and why they are now flying high at the World Cup.”
One of the Falcons key stars further confided in a top source – “We are ready to die here because we know what is at stake for us.
“The money we will earn here will change our lives.”