“Mabo as I know is one name that rings a bell especially on the plateau. The history of football can’t be complete without mentioning him. Mabo was synonymous with Mighty Jets. And even after his playing career, he still remained a shining light. He took the Super Falcons to the highest level reaching the FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-finals, a record that is still standing.
“He was a very passionate football person such that even in his old age, Mabo would struggle to come to the field to encourage young players and coaches. Football is surely going to miss him because his experience is invaluable.
“Mabo helped shape the face of football in Plateau State,” said proprietor of the defunct Jos City Raiders football club and former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Lumumba Dah Adeh when paying glowing tribute to ex-Green Eagles and Mighty Jets of Jos legend, Coach Ismaila Mabo.
The former Super Falcons coach passed away in the early hours of Monday, March 13 at the age of 78 after a protracted illness and has since been buried in Jos according to Islamic rites. In his nearly eight decades on earth, Mabo served football diligently and left behind permanent football prints.
Born on July 15, 1944, Alhaji Mabo Nakande was among the founding fathers of Mighty Jets FC in 1969 and became the first and longest captain of the club and was fondly referred to as ‘Field Marshal, Skippo or Captain fantastic.’ Mabo who started as a school international also played for the senior Nigerian National Team then called the Green Eagles. He was with the likes of Sam Garba Okoye and the Atuegbu brothers in the team that demystified the Black Stars of Ghana in the 70s.
When he retired from active football, Mabo went for his first professional coaching course in Hungary from 1976 to 1977 and returned to become the coach of Mighty Jets FC. He would later attend more coaching courses in Germany and other European countries.
As a transformer of talents, he took the Plateau State football team to many National Sports Festivals while working with the State Sports Council till he advanced to become the Head of the department of coaching.
Being one of the most experienced coaches of his generation, he left the Plateau State Sports Council in 1991 to join the senior national female team, the Super Falcons as an assistant coach to Paul Hamilton, another Nigerian legend who was popularly called ‘wonder boy’ in his playing days. It was the same year that female football began in Nigeria.
In 1995, Mabo became the Chief Coach of the Super Falcons and led the team to their first ever Women’s Nations Cup title in 1998 as they scored 28 goals without conceding any. He guided the girls to successfully defend their title in 2000.
He also took the team to the 2000 Sydney Olympics and came back to win a gold medal with the ladies at the All Africa Games when they defeated the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon.
However, his most remarkable moment with the Super Falcons was when he guided the Super Falcons made up of talented players like Florence Omagbemi who later coached the team, Mercy Akide, Ann Chiejine, Martha Tarhemba, Kikelomo Ajayi, Stella Mbachu, Nkiru Okosieme, Maureen Madu, Patience Avre and Ifeanyi Chiejine to the quarter-finals at the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup in the USA. Since then, no coach, local or foreign has erased that record.
When he passed away last Monday in Jos, Mabo left behind three children namely Anas, Halima, Najib Mabo, 14 grandchildren and the entire nation to mourn the most successful female football coach in Africa.
President Muhammadu Buhari was among the first to pay tribute to the legendary coach when he said Mabo’s legacy would live on in the players and the coaches that came in contact with him during his career, as well as the young athletes that would draw inspiration from his managerial abilities in the years to come.
Similarly, the president of the NFF, Ibrahim Gusau, said “The death of Pa Ismaila Mabo came to me as a huge shock. Again, we have lost a great man and an accomplished trainer-of-trainers in the Nigeria Football fraternity, and my heart goes out to his immediate family and the other loved ones he has left behind.
“Mabo was simple, humble and humane. We will miss him, but we are consoled that he left giant footprints in the sands of time and pray that God will grant him eternal rest.”
To Florence Omagbemi, a former Super Falcons captain who was part of Mabo’s record-breaking squad in the 1990s and early 2000s, the late coach embodied the finest of Nigerian women’s football.
“His death is a big blow to Nigerian football. He will be remembered for the evolution of Nigeria’s women football.”
The Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalung, also described Mabo’s death as a great loss to the country. He said “Mabo is credited with discovering and mentoring young talents, grooming them and exposing them to great clubs in the state, Nigeria and the whole world, thereby enhancing the sport.”
His son Najib who is currently a coach with Mighty Jets told Trust Sports that his father’s death is a devastating blow to him personally and the entire family. He said “I don’t know how to describe the pain I am feeling right now.
“But I hope to continue from where he stopped. He was a compassionate and principled man who was passionate about football. He was a true lover of football especially Mighty Jets which he did everything to ensure it didn’t go into extinction.
“My dad nurtured me to become a professional football coach. He single handedly sponsored me to the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Lagos where I obtained my Advanced Certificate in coaching.
“I was always very close to him. He taught me to be honest, truthful, content and straightforward. I hope to follow in his footprints. His shoes can’t be worn by anyone else but I will try my best.”
Mabo’s younger brother, Salisu Nakande Mamuda, a member of the world conquering 1985 Golden Eaglets, also said “We have recorded a great loss, not to the family alone but to Plateau State, Nigeria and Africa as a whole. He has left a big vacuum in the family. He was the eldest in the family and was always there to steady the ship.
“He taught me a lot of things in life. He mentored me to become a coach who can handle female and male football teams. I am already missing him and I pray that the government at the state and federal level would immortalise him.”
So, as Nigeria mourns the quintessential player, coach and administrator who left indelible marks on Nigerian football, it must be remembered that one dream he nursed was for the Super Falcons to soar beyond where he took them in 1999.
Therefore, the present Super Falcons led by American coach, Randy Waldrum must give Mabo a befitting farewell gift by reaching at least the semis at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.