Gianni Infantino praises deceased Nigeria coaching legend Ismaila Mabo

Tom Dulat - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has described the former Nigeria Super Falcons coach Ismaila Mabo, who died last week, as 'one of the best coaches of his generation'.

Mabo, the most accomplished women's football coach in Africa, died at the age of 80 after a protracted illness.

In his condolence letter to the NFF, Infantino, who was recently re-elected FIFA president for a second term, said the former defender was an inspiration.

Infantino said: "Words seem inadequate to express the sadness we feel for this loss.

"Considered as one of the best coaches of his generation, inspiration to younger generations of coaches, having contributed to the growth of women's football in the country and around the world, his legacy and achievements, and in particular his personality, his loyalty and his human qualities will not be forgotten and he will be truly missed."

As one of the early proponents of women's football in Africa, Mabo discovered, coached and mentored some of the best players to come out of the women's game in Africa, including the likes of Mercy Akide, Florence Omagbemi, Perpetua Nkwocha, Nkiru Okosieme, Patience Avre and more.

Mabo won two Africa Women's Nations Cup titles with Nigeria, the most of any coach so far in the competition.

He also led Nigeria to the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup where the Super Falcons became the first African team not only to win a World Cup game, beating both North Korea and Denmark, but also the first to ever qualify for the quarterfinals.

In addition, Mabo guided the Super Falcons to two Olympic football tournaments in 2000 and 2004.

"We have lost a great man and an accomplished trainer of trainers," NFF President Ibrahim Gusau said. "Mabo laid down a big marker for other coaches. Yet, he was simple, humble and humane."

Akide, one of the stars of Mabo's Class of 1999, said the coach will be remembered the most for his empathy and always standing up for his players.

"He was not just a great coach, he was a great man. He was a mentor, a hero and a father figure to us. He hated injustice and would always stand up for his players," Akide said.

"Mabo helped to lay the foundation for what women's football is now in Africa. The world, and especially Africa, should remember him as a hero and African women's football should never forget him because without the work that people like Mabo put in during those early days, when people did not appreciate women's football, our game would not be where it is now."

Disclaimer: Colin Udoh is married to Mercy Akide.