Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) secretary-general, Dr Mouhammed Sanusi has led the way in mourning the death of female national team, Super Falcons’ former winger, Ifeanyichukwu Stephanie Chiejine, who he described as a naturally gifted player, megasportsarena.com reports.
Sanusi said everyone at The Glasshouse was terribly saddened to hear the news of Chiejine’s passing, following a rash of reports on Thursday morning, that the left-footed star, and longest player ever at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, gave up the ghost in Lagos after a long illness.
The NFF’s condolence message comes at a point wild speculation has started trailing Chiejine’s death, with several associates of the late left-footer insisting her demise was spiritually instigated.
A cross-section of former players and stakeholders close to the Lagos-born lass insist Chiejine did not die of natural causes, and sources from the family believe she died of a mysterious ailment, which she battle for several years, but the illness was kept from public knowledge.
A credible source added that Chiejine’s illness, which some say even saw her rapidly lose hair on her head, was kept secret because of its uncommon nature, while several efforts to revive her failed after she was taken to different churches in Lagos State.
Nonetheless, Chiejine is fondly remembered for her exploits during her active days with Nigeria’s women national teams, such that her former teammates and fans gave her heartfelt messages across social media.
Nigerian Women Football League (NWFL) has also directed that there will be a minute’s silence in honour of Chiejine at Saturday’s Champions Shield (Super Cup) game between Bayelsa Queens of Yenagoa and Rivers Angels of Port Harcourt at Samson Siasia Stadium.
Chiejine featured for the Super Falcons at three FIFA World Cup finals (USA 1999, USA 2003 and China 2007); the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games; four Women Africa Cup of Nations finals (South Africa 2000, Nigeria 2002, Nigeria 2006 and Equatorial Guinea 2008) and; at the women’s football tournament of the 9th All-Africa Games in Algiers in 2007.
She captained the first set of Falconets that featured at the inaugural edition of the FIFA U19 Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2002, which was upgraded to under-20 category six years later, all of which Sanusi said will remain indelible in the annals of Nigerian football.
Sanusi, who was momentarily speechless after being informed of the passing of the former player, added: “This is huge shock. We had no idea that she was sick.
“Ifeanyi was one of the most naturally gifted players to have featured for the Super Falcons. Her death at such a young age is a big blow.
“She gave one hundred percent of her ability and capacity each time she turned out for country.
“We will always remember her as a bundle of skill and energy, and as a patriotic individual who wore the green-white-green with a smile every time.”