–Nigeria’s Soccer heroine, Azizat Oshoala Savours the joy of the moment
Azizat Oshoala is Nigeria’s most celebrated female soccer star at the moment. The Ikorodu born Rivers Angels striker was the best player and highest goal scorer at the last 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada. Azizat who has consequently been invited to the Super Falcons ahead the 2015 African Women Championship due to her heroics in Canada shares her success story here with Complete Sports Saturday…
Can we know Asisat?
Yes, I am Asisat Oshoala, age 19. First child of the family of two, I have a younger sister. I attended Aunty Ayo International School, Lagos. I am a Lagosian from Ikorodu town.
How did you embrace football?
Football came to me naturally. It was like a talent. I started playing on the street of Lagos Island with my friends, it was not as if someone taught me how to play. Someone just saw the talent in me and urged me to join the club side. So I joined FC Robo International of Lagos from there I moved to Rivers Angels FC Port- Harcourt.
What was your parents reaction when you took to football?
Actually, they weren’t happy because when I was in school I used to be very brilliant and used to beat the intelligent guys. My dad used to scold me if I came home with third position in my class. They warned me to stay away from football or they will deal with me. But when they saw the determination in me, that this was what I actually want as a career, they mellowed and allowed me to play football. It was very challenging but thank God I overcame that to reach were I am today.
You have just been listed for a national honour by the federal government at age 19, how do you feel?
Well, when I heard about it, it was a big surprise. But initially, I did not know what it meant until people told me the benefits. I am happy that my country is appreciating me. It means I am an important citizen of Nigeria. I appreciate it and I would work harder for my country and my career.
What does the honour to you?
It would spur me to greater heights. If I am being appreciated this much for reaching the final of the Under-20 World Cup, then it means that if I win the trophy with Super Falcons, I would be appreciated the more. I will do anything within my power to bring honour to Nigeria. It has boosted my morale to do better. The award means everything to me.
What was your feeling when you lost the u-20 world cup?
I felt very bad, I had hoped that falconets would win and become the first African Nation to win the World Cup at any level, but we lost to Germany for a second time. It took me about three days to regain myself after that loss. It was so, so sad that we lost, but we proved to the world that Africa has come of age in the women football.
Were there things you did in that final that you felt you should have done the other way?
Yes, as a player you cannot do it all alone and one is bound to make some mistakes in the course of the game. I think my finishing was poor and I have been working on it seriously. I want to be a great finisher.
Were you under pressure to score goals and win the golden boot in that final game?
Not at all, I was not under any pressure, not even my coach told me to go for goals. Football is sometimes funny, on a good day it will favour you and on other days it will not. We were just unlucky against Germany that day.
How did you feel when you won the golden boot and golden ball as top scorer and best player of the tournament?
I never thought or planned to win any of the two individual awards. The plan was to play well and help my team to win the cup. I had set a target for myself to do better than I did two years earlier when we lost in the semi, and I think I had that target accomplished with my contributions.
Was the personal award a compensation for the trophy you failed to deliver with the Falconets?
I won’t say it was compensation, the target was the cup but we lost it. Actually I would have loved to lose the individual awards and win the World Cup.
What is your target with super falcons after defeat in canada with Falconets?
About two years ago, I was lucky to be with Super Falcons in Equatorial Guinea where we lost the trophy to the host. This time around, we have resolved to bring back the trophy and wipe away the Equatorial Guinea nightmare, where we did not come second or third but finished fourth. This time around it is the trophy and that is my target.
How many caps do you have for the Super Falcons?
I guess about four, against Cameroon in the third place match. Two years ago, a friendly with Cameroon in Abuja, and the qualifiers against Rwenda at home and away.
Any plan to pursue a professional football career in Europe?
Yes, I will surely want to ply my trade in Europe, it is my dream and I would like to fulfill it.
Will Asisat shun an offer to play as a professional abroad for scholarship to further her education?
Well I have a lot of offers for scholarship to study but I turned them down because playing as a professional abroad is my dream and that is what makes me happy for now.
If I had wanted to combine my football with education, I would have been in the U.S.A, but they don’t allow you to study and play professionaly. They play college football there which I don’t want.
Nigeria has done well at age grade competitions at world level but has failed to do so at senior level, why is it so?
It is so because after the age grade competitions, we do not develop like the Europeans and Americans who have highly competitive leagues as well as continental championships. They are busier and more organized.
Do you think women football is getting the necessary support and encouragement in Nigeria?
Our league is not encouraging at all because we are not organized and there is no money there, because of poor wages and lack of support, our players are leaving in droves to play outside the country. Imagine Nigerian top players going to play in countries like Egypt, Hungary, UAE, and other nations whose leagues are not better than ours.
If the standard of our league is good and players well paid, we will certainly stay. The way forward is to get sponsors for women league and give them some degree of attention like the men.
As a striker, which defender do you dread to play against?
Tough one, but I would say Onome Ebi, foreign professionals and Chukwunonye Josephine locally. These two players are hard and very difficult to beat
Best moment in football so far?
My best moment was when I scored four goals in U-20 World Cup Semi-Final against North Korea. I felt on top of the world.
Worst moment in the game?
The day I collected a silly yellow card against South Korea, our second game at the World Cup. I think I missed the ball and out of anger I kicked the corner flag.
Any regret being a footballer?
No regret. I am full of joy succeeding in what was regarded as a man’s game
Aside from football what other sports interest’s you?
I love athletics and if football had not taken me away, I would have been an athlete because I used to run very well in school.
If you had not taken football as a career, what would you have been?
I would have pursued a degree in law, I would have been a lawyer. I had this craze for law when I was in school but I doubt if I would want to be a lawyer after my football career. I want to read English language now.
How has football affected your life?
Football has affected me positively; it has turned me and my family into celebrities. Oshoalla name is now a household name and I now shake presidents of countries.
Would Asisat accept a marriage proposal if it comes?
Ans: Now, no marriage, it is not in my thoughts or programme. Perhaps after some years, I may begin to think in that direction. Now football is all I want to play.
Lesbianism- does it exist in the national teams?
Actually I used to hear about it but I have not encountered it. No one has approached me and I have not seen any one do it in all the camps I have been involved in.
After your performances at the U-20 World Cup, the world will be watching out for you to fulfill your potentials at senior level. What is your take?
I won’t promise anything, I don’t make promises but I will try to put in my best at AWC and senior World Cup. Even if I don’t score goals, and we are winning, that is good. I love scoring goals but if they do not come and I create goals, good for the team.
Who is your role model?
Perpetual Nkwocha. I love the way she plays and handles the ball, her attitude on and off the pitch is great. I want to say perfect. She encourages me a lot. playing alongside her is a dream come true.
I want to thank all my fans, Nigeria and government for their support and prayers. We shall try to reciprocate by making them happy by winning the AWC and doing well at the world cup next year.