U-17 women's team coach Precious Dede: We want to surprise the world

The Nigerian football great is happy to embrace a new challenge in India.

Precious Dede (centre): “The girls know what I’ve done and they look up to me a lot.” - AIFF Media

Precious Dede's decision to come to India to coach India's goalkeepers for the U-17 Women's World Cup was to help the country surprise the world in the competition.

In an interview with fifa.com, Dede opened up on why she came to India. “Lots of people asked me, ‘Why are you going to India? It’s not a football country.’ But I told them that I was coming here to prove a point because, with this U-17 World Cup, we are working towards a goal. And we want to surprise the world,” she said.

The Nigerian football great is encouraged by the response to her efforts by the players. “The girls know what I’ve done and they look up to me a lot. I can see them paying really close attention when I work with them, and it helps that I can still step on the pitch and show them how certain things should be done.

“The other day, one of the girls came up to me and asked, ‘Mum — they call me that — can I ever be like you?’ And I told her, ‘No, you won’t be like me – you will be better than me. That is why I am here: to get you to that level,’” she said.

Challenges

Challenges have had to be faced, too, by Dede as India offered a completely new experience for her. “It’s not all been easy, of course, because it’s a new environment for me and the culture and food are very different. But the Indian people are so warm and receptive, and the players — because they have the right attitude and willingness to learn — are developing very fast. Each one of them is a work in progress, but it’s clear the talent is there,” she said.

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The choice to come to India for this role was offered by Thomas Dennerby, the head coach of the India U-17 football team. Dede said it was a nice surprise for her. “It was a very nice surprise to get the call from Thomas [Dennerby] asking me to do this job. The fact he picked me is a big compliment and it makes me very happy because to me, he is not just a coach or a boss or a mentor. He’s like a father. I have learnt so much from him on and off the field,” she said.

Minds opening

Although there were still barriers to women playing football, the situation had been improving, felt Dede. “Women’s football is developing very fast, and it’s great to see. When I came through, it was very, very tough for a girl to start playing the game. There were so many barriers, particularly in certain parts of the world.

“But minds are opening now. Even in more ‘traditional’ countries, it’s becoming easier for girls to say to their parents, ‘I want to play football’. And I think players in my generation have helped pave the way for that. Unlike us, girls nowadays can now look around at women players who have achieved a lot and say, ‘I want to be like her’.”

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