2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

9 June - 9 July

Media Release

Fédération Internationale de Football Association

FIFA-Strasse 20 - P.O. Box - 8044 Zurich - Switzerland

Tel: +41-(0)43-222 7777

2006 FIFA World Cup™

Players to watch:NGA : Chiejine_Ifeanyichukwu

In women's football, Nigeria stand head and shoulders above the rest of Africa.

The Super Falcons are the first and only African team to play in the Olympic Games. They are the only African team to compete in each of the first four FIFA Women's World Cups, and they are the only team to wear the African Women's Championship crown.

Nigeria have reached such heights due in large part to a player that stands a mere 1.63 meters. A player known as "Smally".

Ifeanyichukwu Stephanie "Smally" Chiejine was born 17 May 1983 in the Delta State of Asaba. One of nine children (5 sisters and 3 brothers), Chiejine emulated Michael Owen growing up and started playing football when she was 10-years-old.

By the time she was a teenager, Chiejine was already well-known in Nigerian football circles.

Playing for the Flying Babes Football Club, the Federal Capital Territory Queens of Abuja, and the Pelican Stars of Calabar, Chiejine thrilled crowds with her exciting combination of speed, agility, flexibility and athleticism. She became widely-known for her flamboyant goal scoring, and by the age of 15 was a rising star on the national team.

Chiejine was the youngest player at the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, but four years later, experience is now on her side. She has 58 caps for the Super Falcons, and has played in three African Women's Championships (1998, 2000, 2002), in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and captained her team at the 2002 FIFA U-19 World Cup.

"Ifee is a very dynamic and sometimes incredible player," says Nigeria head coach Sam Okpodu. "She has speed, she can dribble well close to players, and she is very tenacious with the ball. That is not something you take for granted."

"She is a good and exciting young player," says team captain Florence Omagbemi. "She is among the best players that we have. She should be one of our attackers come this World Cup."

Nigeria's most famous threat, lightening-quick striker "Marvellous" Mercy Akide, appreciates that Chiejine helps take the pressure off from her.

"Ifee helps me a lot up front," says Akide. "Most of the time other teams start out marking me, but she allows us to do other things. They worry about me, but then they see that she is dangerous with the ball. She can dribble or hold the ball, and her passing is very good."

She may be colourful and flamboyant on the pitch, but Chiejine is known for her shyness off of it. An avid reader who loves music and dance, she recently received her degree in computer science and technology. She says her goals are to be prepared and focused in all aspects of her life, and she feels the Super Falcons will do very well in this Women's World Cup.

"In Nigeria, female football has come to stay," says Chiejine softly. "We are very fortunate compared to other African countries. I believe we have a higher caliber of players and coaches, a better league, and the true belief that the future of football is feminine."