Sunday, October 17, 2021

My voice is for the Nigerian girl-child, says Asisat Oshoala

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Nigeria’s forward Asisat Oshoala AFP PHOTO/ANDY CLARK

Super Falcons of Nigeria and Dalian Quanjian of China midfielder, Asisat Lamina Oshoala, says the time has come for parents in Nigeria to change their attitude towards the girl-child, particularly in the area of sports and education.

The Confederations of African Football (CAF) crowned Oshoala as the 2017 African Footballer of the Year during a ceremony in Accra, Ghana last week. She won the title in 2014 and 2016. Oshoala emerged highest goals scorer (18 goals) for her Chinese club, Dalian Quanjian, which was crowned champions of the 2017 Chinese Women’s Super League.

Speaking with The Guardian in Lagos, when she presented the CAF Awards to the management of Emzor Pharmaceutical Company, Oshoala said that many parents still made the mistake of not allowing the girl-child to combine sports and education.

“In most cases, the girl-child is always taken out of school for the boy child to further his education because ‘woman education means nothing to some parents. While the boys move about, making friends with their peers, the girl-child is confined to the house in order to be seen as a ‘good child’ by suitors,” Oshaola, an Emzor Brand Ambassador, said.

Speaking further, Oshoala, who was part of the Coach Florence Omagbemi-led Super Falcons team that conquered Africa at the 2016 AFCON in Cameroun said:

“It’s a big problem in Africa. In Europe, it’s no problem at all. Here we need to tell them that girls also have the capacity to do well in sports and still read and pass their exams very well. In most cases, if some Nigerian girl-child manages to go to school, the strict arms of the parents keep them out of numerous activities such as being members of social clubs and sports in particular. The girl-child is seen as too vulnerable to be able to cope with academics and other extra curricular activities.

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“To me, that is the mistake many people make these days. They want the girl-child to drop one for the other. No. You don’t need to do so. Our parents should encourage the girl-child to take on with the two because you never can tell where your luck will come. If I was not a footballer, I would have been a Lawyer,” she stated.

Oshoala, who hails from Ikorodu, Lagos State started as a striker before she was converted to a central midfielder by former Super Falcons coach, Edwin Okon, during the qualifiers for the 2014 African Women’s Championship, and she didn’t disappoint, striking a formidable partnership with Desire Oparanozie.

She started her football career with the talent breeding FC Robo in Lagos, played for Rivers Angels of Port Harcourt before taking her soccer trade to Europe, where she pitched her tent with Liverpool Ladies in January 2015, thus becoming the first African footballer to play in the Women’s Super League. She scored three goals in 12 league appearances for the Reds.

Oshoala is a hard tackler, and she possesses the killer passing abilities to destroy the opposition. After about a year at Liverpool, she joined Arsenal Ladies in May 2016, before she later shifted base to China.

Her fans usually call her Seedorf because of the powerful strikes she sometimes exerts when playing. She was a member of Falconets to the 2014 U-20 World Cup in Japan.

As a teenager, Oshoala had to brush aside some challenges playing football against her male counterparts before releasing her dreams of wearing the green while green jerseys and scoring goals in faraway lands.

She narrated how she shaped her skills on primary school pitches in Ikorodu, her birthplace.

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“When I was in school, I used to play football with boys,” Oshoala recalled with nostalgia. “I was in a six-a-side team. The boys always used to say to me: “Don’t go to the front, just stay at the back. Just kick the balls out. You can’t score goals. You can’t dribble past defenders.”

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“And then the day came where we made it to a final. I dribbled two or three players and scored a goal. 1-0. End of the game. I remember saying to them, ‘Look at that. You don’t believe in me, but look at what I can do.”

Oshoala considers that moment her first valuable life-lesson. “When you have this determination, and people see this determination in you, eventually they have no choice but to give you the support you need to get you where you want to go,” she reflected warmly on those first boisterous barriers in her carrier.

Oshoala has since set up her pet project, Asisat Oshoala Football Clinic, which has received the backing of the Lagos State First Lady, Emzor Pharmaceuticals and Women in Sports in Lagos.

She told The Guardian that one of the reasons she set up the project was to encourage the younger generation, particularly the girl-child who look up to her: “The notion that the girl-child’s place is in the kitchen is outdated and counterproductive as girls have the innate God-given qualities to excel on several fronts.

“I’m here to show my appreciation to Emzor Pharmaceuticals for their unflinching support and their belief in the development of the girl-child, which I am one.

“And I want to appeal to all our parents to give their girl children the chance to explore their passion in sports even as they endeavor to give them good education. There is need to change the notion that a girl’s place is in the kitchen. Girls have the capacity to succeed on several fronts and still keep a good home. I am a girl too,” said stated.

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The three-time African Women’s Footballer of the Year also spoke on her target this season saying: “The focus this year is to assist the Super Falcons defend the African Nation’s Cup title in Ghana and also qualify for the World Cup in France. I learnt the NFF has planned a friendly match for the team against France. The Falcons need more friendly games for us to do well at the Cup of Nations.

“It’s a good one, a big step for us and good news for women’s football in Nigeria generally but it’s not enough. It’s not about the France game alone, but we need more games like this and we don’t have to plead before we get games,” Oshoala said.

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For the Group Managing Director/CEO of Emzor Pharmaceuticals, Dr. (Mrs.) Stella Okoli, the partnership with Oshoala has yielded the needed dividends. She thanked the footballer for being a good Brand Ambassador adding that Emzor Pharmaceuticals will remain committed towards positively impacting the lives of children, especially the girl-child.

“We are proud to be associated with Oshoala. She is God’s gift to Nigeria and the world at large. Girls need to be encouraged to go into sports even as they go to school. Education and sports is a win-win combination for every girl child. Oshoala is a role model for millions of girls around the world.

“This is just the beginning for her. She did well while with Arsenal in England, and is now doing well for her club in China. I pray God will continue to lift her even higher,” Okoli stated.

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