Super Falcons striker Asisat Oshoala is in the forefront of the girl – child emancipation campaign, having encountered similar challenges on her career path.
Asisat Oshoala ’ s pole position in women ’ s football on the continent is not in doubt.
She ’ s seen it all as far as winning laurels at individual and team level is concerned .
At individual level , she ’ s a three- time African Women ’ s Player of The Year- 2014, BBC ’ s African Female Footballer (2015 ), Queen of the Pitch (2014 ), Africa ’ s Women Youth Player (2014) , African Women ’ s Championship Golden Ball (2014) , FIFA U – 20 Women ’ s World Cup Golden Boot (2014 ), FIFA U- 20 Women ’ s World Cup Golden Ball (2014 ) and Chinese Women ’ s Super League top scorer (2017 ).
She ’ s also scooped the Africa Women ’ s Cup of Nations thrice with the Super Falcons, won the Nigerian women ’ s league once and the women ’ s FA Cup twice , as well as the English FA Women ’ s Cup with Arsenal and the Chinese Women ’ s Super League at national team and club levels .
With these achievements come greater responsibility ; and it ’ s something she has come to accept and passionately embraces.
Oshoala is a two – faced personality : Oshoala the player and Oshoala the charitable worker .
It is the latter that the former Barcelona striker tries as much as possible to project with her pet project, the Asisat Oshoala Foundation .
She casts a symbolic figure in the sport but she ’ s eager to show she has a world outside football .
“ I have an opportunity through football .
It is something I acknowledge and I’ m grateful for, but beyond football I am fully concentrated on my foundation .
Even when I’ m not around , my foundation takes care of the less privilege .
We’ ve been involved in feeding programmes, especially during Ramadan periods , visiting schools , distributing books and educational materials to students and even partnering with a major pharmaceutical company to donate drugs and health equipment to hospitals .
“ I believe it ’ s the only way I can connect with the grassroots .
I have a world outside football and that is exactly why I am fully committed to my youth empowerment programme and other social projects , ” the Barca star told reveals .
In a sport where fame , wealth can easily distract footballers , Oshoala ’ s ability and resilience to stay grounded, not losing focus on what she considers as a moral obligation and social responsibility to her community deserve plaudits .
It is a unique trait that our correspondent identified and asked the 24 – year – old .
“ Yes , I could have gone on holidays if I wanted to , but I feel ‘ why can ’ t I use it productively and impact on my community?’
Looking at where I come from , I just feel I should use my spare time to help young girls grow and achieve their dreams.
I really derive pleasure in it . ”
Oshoala ’ s loyalty to her roots is amazing .
Whenever in town, she ’ s often cited training with the FC Robo players on the sandy pitch of Bishop Aggrey Memorial School, Mushin, Lagos , where she started her blossoming career from .
“ FC Robo is my home . I’ ll always train there whenever I’ m in the country .
Training with Robo gives me an opportunity to be me ; get to discuss and share experience with these girls.
“ You can only motivate when you create the rapport and connection . Playing there with the girls gives you the opportunity to hear them out , and also share thoughts . ”
Nigeria ’ s socio- economic problems and the need to survive have often thwarted many children ’ s dreams , especially young girls aiming to become sportswomen .
Parents would rather see their kids embrace their studies than indulge in sporting activities .
It is an experience she ’ s all too familiar with while growing up in Ilasamaja , a suburb of Lagos .
She had several friends ’ dreams cut short by their parents, who preferred they embraced other career options than being footballers.
It is something she is trying to change through her foundation aside empowering young girls through the sport .
“ Life is all about opportunities . I won ’ t say I was the best player among my friends in those days .
I had many of them that were better than me , but you know parents, how they disturb you from playing football .
They’ ll tell you to go and read your books. Many of my playmates couldn ’ t go far in the game because of parental opposition.
“ I can tell you that I’ m the only one that is playing professionally today . ”
So , how did she become the lucky one amongst the many ?
“Well , I came from a disciplined family .
It was difficult to play football . But , the little time I had, I always made sure I seized the opportunity to go play with my friends.
I can only say I’ m lucky to be where I am today .
Like I said earlier, I had playmates that were better than me back in those days .
“ Imagine if my friends had the same continuity that I had, ” she quipped .
Having seen it all, the Super Falcons striker must have had some experiences with parents trying to convince them through her foundation to let their daughters play football .
“ Yes and it has not been easy . But , we have been trying to talk to parents through seminars and workshops meant to convince them to let their girls play if they are passionate about the game .
“ The more parents we convince , the easier it gets to get the girls into the sport.
“ We just want them to realise that their girls can still have a future and it is possible if they can balance their education with football, ” she stated .
Equipped with an arsenal of experience and exposure , having travelled around the world playing football, she says the girl – child football development in Nigeria is nowhere near what obtains in places like Europe .
She said , “ Seriously, we’ re miles apart . We’ re not on the same level .
You can ’ t compare Europe with here. It is incomparable because the structure, foundation and organisation are top – notch.
“ I have helped pay school fees of some girls and other stuffs .
I know what we’ re going through here it is one of the reasons I took up the responsibilities .
“ Parents give excuses about wards needing to hawk and sell stuffs but , I try as much as possible to take care of their educational needs to relieve the pressure. ”
When asked about dividends from her foundation , Oshoala replied, “ Girls that pass through the foundation have got the chance to train with FC Robo .
Chindinma Okeke is a success story today . She played at the World Cup for Nigeria .
So , it ’ s not like they just come and go .
We have a vision for these kids , if you want to help someone, you don’ t do it halfway .
“ And besides we currently have three kids in the UK . ”
Having started the journey to emancipate the girl – child in Nigeria , Super Zee , as Oshoala is fondly called , is also selling the dream to her national teammates .
“Yes , some of them are already running pet projects to give back to young female footballers .
It can only get better as we seek to grow the sport .
The problems are there but convincing my colleagues has really helped .
It is something I ’ m happy with and I guess Chindinma ’ s success story also motivated them . ”
For a young lady , sustaining the project could be cumbersome.
However , she seems undeterred as her passion fuels her commitment.
“ For me , it ’ s actually easy to maintain it when you do something you love.
I am not under any mandate or force to do this is something that comes out of love.
When you derive pleasure in what you doing is easy to sustain .
It is not affecting my professional career and lifestyle .
“Really it ’ s not been easy but my passion and desire has been key.
I have been lucky to get a major partner.
It is rare to see one , but , I’ m lucky that a major pharmaceutical company shared my vision and came on board . ”
At a time where the girl – child has increasingly becoming vulnerable and prey to sexual predators , young aspiring female footballers are not exempted from this crime .
Love for the game and desperation to kick – start a career might make them fall victims in the search for favours.
It is something Oshoala admits can happen .
“ If you ’ re good , you ’ re good and if you ’ re not , that is it .
I don’ t believe it ’ s ideal to seek favour from any coach to get a headway.
The thing is, I can ’ t really talk much on it , but I can only motivate the kids and make them understand that they need not listen to anyone to get a headway.
It only takes a good coach , professional one , to nurture and mould a player .
It is just that some of these kids are at times unlucky to meet the right people .
I can only pray that these kids meet the right people . ”
As Lagos State’ s anti – drug ambassador, the former Liverpool player disclosed how she motivates and discourages young girls from drugs.
She said , “ I train with them when I’ m around, to create that freedom and rapport with them .
It makes it easy to communicate with them and let them see me in training that you can play football without using stimulants to play very well .
“ I just proved to them that through training and fitness regime , you can play well without taking drugs . ”
Just back home from the 2019 Women ’ s World Cup in France , where the Falcons reached the last 16 for the second time ever , Oshoala believes they could have gone further .
The African champions lost 3 – 0 to Germany after beating Korea Republic 2 – 0 and losing 3 – 0 and 1 – 0 to Norway and hosts France respectively in the group stage .
“ Seriously we would have loved to go further , but that’ s football .
It was a nice experience for the team . We all put in our efforts but, we fell to the Germans in the last 16.
“ I think we were unlucky with injuries and cards. It depleted the squad .
If we had a full squad devoid of these issues , it would have been a different situation. ”
For every World Cup experience , there comes a learning curve .
“ We learnt to be focused and attentive.
It was something that cost us three points against the Norwegians .
We just gave away cheap goals due to loss of concentration and I believe we learnt from that experience , ” the 2019 AFCON winner added .
Her goal against Korea , where she latched onto a pass , used her blistering pace to overcome her marker before dribbling past the goalkeeper and tapping in , was nominated as part of the top 10 goals at the World Cup .
“ The team comes first for me . I am happy I got the nomination but , really it is about the team , ” she added .
“It is always good when you play with teammates who know your moves and timing . I needed space to attack , I am aware of my strength .
The ball came in at the perfect time and I just used my pace to finish the job . ”
Now lacing her boots for Catalan giants, Barca , Oshoala became the first African woman to score in the final of the women ’ s version of the Champions League as her side lost to a dominant Lyon , who cruised to a fourth consecutive UWCL title at the Ferencváros Stadion , Budapest, Hungary , on May 18.
She also scored seven goals in seven appearances for the Spanish side last season .
“ My move to Barca is down to good management.
When I joined my Chinese club , everybody thought I was finished but , I proved them wrong .
I came to Barca smashed the whole thing and silenced my critics , ” she said .
“ Initially the plan was to play the second half of the season since we were heading for the World Cup and I needed to play regularly.
Barca follow top players , so after completing my loan with them , they decided to make the deal permanent .
My management and my Chinese club held a roundtable discussion and that was how I sealed the deal . ”
An ardent Super Eagles fan , Oshoala is impressed with Gernot Rohr ’ s men and wishes them luck as they seek to clinch a fourth AFCON title in Egypt .
“ The Eagles are having a good tournament .
The Madagascar loss led to a lot of criticisms , but they bounced back to prove a point .
I am impressed and hopeful they’ ll secure the title at the end of the day . ”
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