COMPARATIVE STUDY OF PHYSICAL FITNESS AND ANTHROPOMETRIC CHARACTERISTICS OF NIGERIAN FEMALE DEFENSIVE AND OFFENSIVE SOCCER PLAYERS IN ABUJA-FCT, NIGERIA

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.0         Background of the Study

Football is the most popular sport globally (Witvrouw, Danneels, Asselman, D’Have & Cambier, 2003) and its growing interest has been on the increase in Nigeria. The national team Super Eagle’s ranking has been up and down in Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) currently ranked 46 and third in the continent of Africa in male football. While in the female category both in Africa and globally Nigeria is a force to be reckoned with. The ranking suggests that our playing standards need to be improved in line with three key areas previously reported to be related to successful football performance, namely physical, technical and tactical skills, (Hoff & Helgerud, 2004)

The advent of female football in the continent was through the organisation of African Women’s Cup in 1988 by Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) (Complete Football, 1998). This stirred up the development of female football in the nation, though proper female league did not start until 1990 and by 1991 Nigeria Football Federation organised the first female challenge cup competition for female footballs registered with the federation, (Ayodele, 1992).

There was a rapid growth of female clubs in the country an indication that the country is blessed with potential female players. The swift rise of Nigeria into dominance in the African continental female football, a mecca of female players and a confirmed force to be reckoned with in the world female football. The national senior female team Super Falcon having participated in almost all the FIFA female competitions having won the African Women Cup six times since its inception in 1988.

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Historically physical fitness was concerned in a simple term as consisting of strength, endurance, speed agility, coordination and balance in 1950s. But with the passage of time it becomes more complex in computing level of strengths, endurance and flexibility. The present concept of physical fitness emphasizes two broad areas of fitness which includes health-related fitness and skill or performance related fitness. Health related fitness is made up of cardiorespiratory, endurance, muscular endurance, body agility.

Physiological characteristics that have been reported as essential for football players are aerobic fitness, agility, muscle strength, speed, and explosive jumping power, (Polman, Walsh, Bloomfield & Nesti, 2004). While aerobic fitness contributes up to 90% of energy utilization during football matches (McMllian, Helgerud, Macdonard & Hoff, 2005), typically high intensity bouts of sprinting are necessary to score goals. These efforts may be complemented by jumping used by footballers when controlling the ball in the air and to score or defend goals by way of heading. Sprinting accounts for approximately only five per cent of the duration; with each sprint covering up to 30 meters and most efforts not completed in a straight line. Thus, acceleration, speed, and agility are determined by the athletes muscle strength and power (Wisloff, Catagna, Helgerud, Jones & Hoff, 2004) and can be effectively trained through a well-developed and structured program. These key components have been shown to differentiate performance of players independent of their football specific skills such as ball control, dribbling, and tackling.

Success in sports has been associated with specific anthropometric characteristics, body composition and somatotype (Duquet & Carter, 2001). During a soccer match (90 minutes), the player’s movements are characterized by high intensity, short-term actions and pauses of varying length. To be successful in such a team sport, soccer players need an optimal

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combination of technical, tactical, physical characteristics (e.g. somatotype), and mental motivation (Bangsbo, 1994), among other sports characteristics. Hence, for soccer coaches, managers, sports physiotherapists, and scientists, an in-depth understanding of the determinants of success, such as the specific anthropometric characteristics of players may be important. Some studies showed evidence for position-specific anthropometric characteristics in soccer players (Rienzi, Drust, Reilly, Carter, & Martin, 2000; Gil, Gil, Ruiz, Irazusta & Irazusta, 2007). Goalkeepers are taller than central position players, Tahara, Moji, Tsunawake, Fukwda, Nakayama & Nakagaichi, 2006; Gil et al., 2007). Similar studies on position-specific anthropometric profiles have been reported for Australian football (Young, Newton, Doyle, Chapman, Cormack & Stewart, 2005; Pyne et al., 2006), Gaelic soccer (McIntyre, 2005; McIntyre & Hall, 2005) and American football (McGee & Burkett, 2003; Garstecki, Latin, & Cuppett, 2004).

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COMPARATIVE STUDY OF PHYSICAL FITNESS AND ANTHROPOMETRIC CHARACTERISTICS OF NIGERIAN FEMALE DEFENSIVE AND OFFENSIVE SOCCER PLAYERS IN ABUJA-FCT, NIGERIA