Rivers Angels, the Jewels set to replicate Nigeria's dominance

Maryan Ezenagu - Rivers Angels0.JPG2

Founded as Larry Angels in 1986 by a women's football lover, Lawrence Ezeh, Rivers Angels was renamed by then Rivers state governor's first lady Eniye Patience Abbe after a takeover in 1991.

Since its establishment, Rivers Angels has been producing some of the most iconic players in the history of Africa women's football and has been a fertile recruiting ground for the dominant Super Falcons, with record nine titles.

Rivers Angels

From Uche Eucharia [first coach and player to win Women's AFCON] to Chioma Ajunwa, [pioneer captain and Nigeria gold medalist] and Perpetua Nkwocha to Asisat Oshoala [combined eight-time winners of Africa Women's Player of the Year], the club have a back catalogue of stars that is scarcely believable.

"It has been a household name in Nigeria as far back as 1987 and I was the one who helped restructure the club with the help of Larry Ezeh," Ajunwa, who is the first Nigerian and first black African woman to win gold at the 1996 Olympic, told CAFOnline.com.

"I was the one who went into the villages to pick the players who played during my eight years with the club. Then, Rivers Angels have had the luck of having good, zealous, determined players. Against all odds, the players were playing with great passion and focus on winning which is why the team is a household name.

"Since the government took over the club, they have taken proper care of the team which is why they have continued to excel. I think various governments and firms should emulate Rivers state government to help the women's game grow in leaps and bounds."

Our target is the title as we've prepared well for the tournament. My calculation and focus are on winning the trophy. I have made the players understand the burden of the challenge on us. Edwin Okon, Rivers Angels Head Coach

Since 2010, Rivers Angels have won the Nigerian Women's Premier League six times, Women's Federation Cup record eight times and Women's Super Cup once - all under the tutelage of Edwin Okon.

"It's not an easy job handling a women's team, let alone being champions of the Nigerian league several times and the Federation Cup," the 51-year-old tactician told CAFOnline.com.

"So many big players have passage through this big club, if we have 60 players abroad, I think about 40 of them has passaged through the club. I'm also happy with the privilege to handle the club. It takes a lot of sacrifice and discipline to achieve this."

With 15 domestic titles in Nigerian football, the winning mentality imbibed by the players is a major secret, according to Okon.

"When you get to Rivers Angels as a new player, the first thing we make you understand is that this is where we change your mentality from a girl to a woman," he opened up.

"We believe that the orientation will make a girl child, who wants to make podium success can go all the way to achieve it. It is not an easy task but we make them understand that our philosophy is win and players develop the mindset of a champion."

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The Jewels of Rivers will slug it out with Vihiga Queens of Kenya, Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, ASFAR of Morocco in Group B and the tactician is upbeat about conquering the continent again.

"I think the club is a very big team. Going to Egypt, it is a big championship and we look forward to bringing home the trophy," the 2014 Women's Africa Cup of Nations winner with Nigeria continued.

"Our target is the title as we've prepared well for the tournament. My calculation and focus are on winning the trophy. I have made the players understand the burden of the challenge on us.

"The whole country and our sponsor (Rivers State government) are behind us. To whom much is given, much is expected, we are not just going there (Egypt) to make the number as participants. Our winning mentality is high and we won't disappoint everyone."

Rivers will open their campaign against Moroccan champions at the Al Salam Stadium on November 6, 2021 before a meeting with Sundowns three days later and final group showdown with Vihiga on November 12.