Female footballer and multiple award winner, Asisat Oshoala, speaks with TOFARATI IGE about her career and other interests
What’s your educational history?
For my elementary education, I attended Air Force Primary School, Victoria Island, Lagos. Afterwards, I attended Aunty Ayo International School in Ikoyi, Lagos, for my post-elementary education.
What was the reaction of your parents when you started playing football?
They didn’t support me from the outset but along the line, they actually helped me to grow.
What do you recall of your time in Liverpool Ladies FC in the UK?
I had a great time there. At some point, I got injured and I was out for a season. It was a tough time for me.
Do you have any special preparation before you go on the field?
There is nothing much that I do. I just like to listen to music and pray.
What are the immediate goals you want to achieve?
I just want to be myself without being under unnecessary pressure. I want to prove to the girl child out there that it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, or where you’ve been to, you can still get to the top and conquer all obstacles around you. Your circumstance shouldn’t limit you. I just want to help the younger generation achieve their dreams.
How would you describe your experience in China?
As a professional footballer, I always knew that one can travel to anywhere at any time so it wasn’t difficult for me to make the move. Truly, there were some cultural differences, but it wasn’t a bad experience altogether. I have a translator in the team, and whenever I want to communicate with my colleagues or the management, the message would be passed across. It was cool learning new things, meeting new people and adapting to a new environment.
What are your goals for 2018?
Right now, every lover of football out there just wants the Super Falcons to qualify for the World Cup. The World Cup is a big stage where you go to speak to the world with your legs. It is an opportunity to showcase Africa, and let the world see what we have got. In this year, we also want to defend our trophy at the African Nations Cup but the major project is to qualify for the World Cup.
How would you describe your relationship with your Super Falcons teammates?
I have a good relationship with everyone of them; they are my friends.
How do you react to insinuations that you are in a lesbian relationship with some of your teammates?
When it comes to things like that, I don’t take them seriously because I know myself. I can only speak for myself.
What’s the story behind your nickname, Seedorf?
I used to play as a defensive midfielder and Dutch footballer, Clarence Seedorf, was my favourite player. All my teammates knew this and they started calling me by his name; eventually, it stuck.
What do you think can be done to make football more attractive for young people in Nigeria?
The football industry needs more support from the private sector. We also need the media to put more information about the women’s league out there. There are a lot of people who are interested in women football but they don’t have the necessary information on how to partake in it.
You have won a lot of awards as a footballer. What motivates you?
Like I always tell people, I just think about where I’m coming from and my parents. That motivates me to keep pushing. I make sure I do my job well and I accept whatever success comes with it. I have won a lot of big awards that I didn’t even think I was going to win. Even in my club in China, Dalian Quanjian FC, I won the award of the best player of the season, and I never imagined that I would clinch that particular award. I was just doing my job. My primary objective is to do my job and get everything right; whatever success comes out of it is secondary to me.
If you get a good offer in Europe, would you take it?
I actually have a lot of offers from different big teams in Europe but I’m yet to make a decision. For now, I don’t know whether I want to remain in China, or go back to Europe.
Do you think you can win the award of the world female footballer of the year?
I think we have a lot of good players all over the world. Recently, I was rated among the top 100 female players in the
world, and I was the only African who made that list. However, I think that the media has a very important role to play in things like this because we play together with the players that make it to the top and we know them well. It is not like they have any special powers; just that they are backed by very good media which regularly showcase their achievements. I’ll like to use this opportunity to thank the Nigerian media for what they have been doing so far. I will also like to urge them to please do more for African players because we have a lot of talents that ought to be at the top too.
What was the first thing that crossed your mind when you were recently announced as the African Woman Footballer of the Year for the third time?
It was a great moment for me, my family and my team because we worked so hard last year and did a lot in terms of decision making. It was a tough decision for me to leave England, even though some of us know that the popularity of the place has a lot to do with what the media puts out. It is not that the professionalism there cannot be found in any other place. However, 2017 was a difficult year for me, so winning the CAF award made me realise that I can do whatever I want to do. It made me know that I can go to places and achieve a lot if I am ready to work for it.
How did you feel when you were honoured with a Member of the Order of the Niger by former President Goodluck Jonathan?
I think I was about 21 years old then so it was a great feeling for me. Initially, I didn’t know much about what the honour really meant but as time went on, I realised how important it actually is. I now appreciate it more than when I first got it.
Having played in different climes, what are the specific things that you would like to see replicated in Nigeria?
The first thing is the structure of the league. When it comes to female football in Nigeria, I think the league should be better structured. We are still far behind the rest of the world. We don’t have people that are passionate about the game and are ready to work. They just occupy certain positions and don’t do the things that they are supposed to do. However, I am actually impressed with the way the Nigerian league has been organised in the last one year. There is a new board that is working really hard. I have spoken with a couple of people and they have confirmed that things are changing in the league. Even the media can acknowledge the fact that there were more positive reports about the Nigeria women league in 2017 than in 2016.
What specific advice can you give to young ones who look up to you out there?
The first thing is don’t waste your youth. Secondly, make sure you go all out; give it all you have or don’t do it at all. Thirdly, be humble and don’t let fame get to your head. Success comes with a lot of negativity, so you should make sure you have good people around you. Having a good team contributes greatly to where you get to in life.
Are you scared of anything?
I really cannot think of anything right now. Maybe if you ask me this question later, I would have something to say.
What’s the toughest experience you’ve ever had in your career?
That would be my first day as a professional player when I joined Liverpool Ladies FC. I had issues with scoring goals until a point when I was scoring goals in every match. However, shortly after I reached my best form, I got injured and I was out for the rest of the season. It was a very difficult time for a young girl who was just coming up at the time. In retrospect, I am glad it happened because it made me stronger.
How did you feel when you played in an international game for the first time?
It was an exciting moment for me. Representing my country was a dream come true.
What’s that thing that can make you smile even when you’re sad?
Maybe when I see food, especially amala.
What did you do with the first major fee you got as a footballer?
I think I will have to ask my parents that because I was very young then and I always gave all my money to my mother.
Who are your role models?
That would be Mercy Akide. She is a good player, and she has a great character on and off the pitch. She has really been helpful to me. I seek advice from her, and she has been a very good person to me.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered in the course of your career?
Contrary to what some people may think, it hasn’t been smooth sailing. It has been quite difficult, but one has to keep working so as to achieve set goals. I face many challenges daily. A lot of people don’t believe in the girl child, so I want to use my opportunity to speak for women. It’s not about what is happening now; it is about what we can achieve in the future.
Aside football, what other interests do you have?
I like music.
What kind of music catches your fancy?
I like African music. My favourite artistes are Wizkid, Davido, Shatta Wale, Sarkodie, Wande Coal, among many others. There is nothing that is impossible; so, I cannot categorically say whether I may delve into music in future or not.
If you weren’t a footballer, what would you have been?
I would have become a lawyer. I have a very good friend called Eni Aluko, who plays for Chelsea Football Club and is also a lawyer. I believe everything is possible; I may still study law.
Are there things that your football career has restricted you from doing as a young girl?
As a young girl, there are a lot of things that I dropped because of my career. I don’t go to some places. As a person who is associated with a lot of brands, I have to be careful about the kind of places I go to and the people I interact with. Things like this contribute to how much success that one would achieve.
How long do you train in a day?
I really cannot say. I have a professional, who draws my schedule and handles my programmes daily. I don’t work on my own.
What’s happening with your foundation?
The Asisat Oshoala Foundation is doing well. We had a big event in 2017 for the girl child. It was about making them understand that they can successfully combine football and education. While I was growing up, I went through a lot with my parents as they didn’t want me to become a professional footballer. They wanted me to focus on my studies. However, I was able to combine both; probably because I’m intelligent. The mistake people make is that they coerce their kids into dropping one for the other but in reality, both can work together. You don’t have to kill dreams for your education.
What incentives do you make available for the talents discovered by your foundation?
Some of them are with teams in the Nigerian Women Football League and in other places. It is about helping the young girls out there to achieve their dreams and making sure they are in the right hands.
Do you cook?
Of course, I do. I live in China right now and they don’t sell African foods there. I have to cook for myself. My favourite food is amala.
How do you handle your male admirers?
That is a personal question that I wouldn’t want to treat here.
Are you in a relationship at the moment?
I wouldn’t also want to answer that question.
What are your likes and dislikes?
I like honest, happy and open-minded people.
Are you interested in fashion?
Yes, I am a fashionista.
How do you like to dress?
I like to dress formally, and sometimes, I go for casual wear.
Do you like to wear heels and other ‘girly’ outfits?
I sometimes wear girly outfits, but I’m more of a sneakers person than heels.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
Contact: [email protected]