Reigning African Footballer of the Year, Super Falcons and Arsenal Ladies striker, Asisat Lemina Oshoala, is not happy with the current state of women football league in Nigeria.
Oshoala has been the cynosure of all eyes at the on-going 2016 African Women Nations Cup in Cameroun. She has scored five goals so far in two matches for the Super Falcons to occupy the top scorers’ chart. The goals include the four she netted against Mali in their first group match and one against Ghana Black Queens in the second game on Wednesday.
Speaking with The Guardian at the team’s Parliamentarian Flat Hotel camp in Buea yesterday, Oshoala said the current state of women football league in Nigeria is not encouraging. “The league in Nigeria is actually getting worse,” she said.
She said: “It is obvious that the Nigerian women league is still where it was, no improvement, nothing. To me, it is even getting worse.
“You can’t have a league from January till now, and you don’t know who the winner is. You don’t even know when the league will end. You have people still playing and you have some set of people who are saying that they are the winners. This is November and we are almost in December, yet nobody knows who the clear winner of the league is. I think it is getting worse and it is not good for football. It shows all is not really well with the Nigerian league.”
Reacting to a question if the Nigeria women football league can in any way get closer to what is obtainable in England, where she currently plies her soccer trade, Oshoala said: “I don’t think there is any basis for comparison. Over there in England, the people do things according to plan. You can’t set a date for the conclusion of the league and work contrary to it all of a sudden. But what we are seeing now in the Nigerian league is far from that. Don’t also forget that the league has been running without a sponsor, and that is not too good.
“Now, we just have a new set of people on the board and I want to believe they will change the face of the league for better.”Oshoala featured in the Nigerian league, first with FC Robo in Lagos before joining Rivers Angels of Port Harcourt, where she rose to limelight. She signed for Liverpool FC shortly after helping the Super Falcons to win the 2014 edition of the African Women Nations Cup in Namibia before crossing to Arsenal Ladies FC.
In 2014, Oshoala was part of the U-20 female team that lost to Germany in the final in Canada. On her return to Nigeria, the people of Ikorodu, her birthplace in Lagos, organised a gland reception for Oshoala. It was sponsored by Abike Daberi-Erewa, who was then a member of the House of Representatives. Oshoala has not forgotten the recognition from her people.
“Anytime I am in Nigeria, I always pay a visit to my people in Ikorodu because that is my birth place. I always try to encourage young girls in the area to combine sports with their education,” Oshoala stated.
On the on-going Nations Cup in Cameroun, Oshoala said: “It has been a good tournament for us so far. We have played just two group matches against Mali and Ghana, and we are looking forward to defending our title. That is our target.”
She spoke on the 1-1 draw against Ghana Black Queens, saying: “To me, the 1-1 draw we played against Ghana was not a bad result considering the quality of opposition. Many people may see it from a different angle, but they should also realize that Ghana Black Queens are the current champions of the All African Games. They won the title in Congo Brazzaville just last year, and that same team is what we played with here on Wednesday. There may still be opportunity for us to meet again in this competition if we win our matches, and they win their games as well.”
Speaking on her choice as Brand Ambassador to Emzor Pharmaceuticals, Oshoala described it as good development for Nigerian football. “Emzor is a very good brand; it is a brand that has been supporting Nigerian football for years. This partnership is a privilege for me to work with them, and I believe it is also a privilege for the company to work with a footballer like me. It is a very good combination for a good brand working with another good brand. We have a lot to give to each other. I think it is a very good thing for us.”
While signing the partnership deal with the company in Lagos recently, Emzor described Oshoala as a brand synonymous with dogged determination and loyalty with a sense of discipline that is unrivalled, adding that she has never been reported to be involved in any scandal whatsoever throughout her short but very illustrious career.
Emzor is one of the sponsors of the national football teams, including the Super Eagles and Super Falcons, and Emzor Paracetamol has been the Official Paracetamol of the national teams for almost three years.
Since Oshoala broke into limelight few years ago, she has set many records, which has made her the envy of many of her contemporaries. Apart from her emergence as the Most Valuable Player at the Namibia 2014 African Women’s Championship (AWC), where she equally won the Silver Boot award for scoring four goals, Oshoala was named as the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year, beating star players including Spain’s Veronica Boquete, German Nadine Kessler, Scot Kim Little and Brazilian Marta to the honour. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) later crowned her effort with the African Women Player of the Year award.