As the Super Falcons seek to navigate their way into the next round of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament, the captain of the team, Asisat Oshoala, spoke with Premium Times about the perception of the team by Nigerians and some issues around the team
The four-time Africa Woman Footballer of the year also speaks on her blistering career at Barcelona where she emerged as the first African to score in a Champions League final and thereafter the first to win the competition.
The 27-year-old who also runs a foundation highlights some of the humble achievements from her pet project.
PT: Nine goals in eight games for Barcelona again this season. What can you make out of this fantastic feat?
Oshoala: Personally, I have always been a player who has always had a dream to be better; I have had 20 goals in a season since I joined the team (Barcelona); the goal is to try to get better and have more goals each season and also make sure the team wins each game and of course to win games, you have to score goals. I take responsibility for my chances and it has been good so far.
PT: What are your targets with Barcelona this season?
Oshoala: Right now, there is no pressure but at the end of the day, we won the Champions League last year; we won the league; won the Cup; won a treble last year, though we had the chance of winning four trophies, but we lost out on one. This year we are going for the quadruple but the least will be to still win another treble.
PT: Having won the CAF Woman Player of the Year on four different occasions, do you fancy your chances for winning the Women’s Ballon d’Or?
Oshoala: As I said earlier, my goal is always to beat my previous records, so beating my previous records will see me at some point equaling or even beating some records in Europe in terms of goals and all that. That is bound to give you some more recognition.
I am already being recognised in Europe, so if I get nominated for the award, I will see it as deserving because I have really worked hard to be at that level. It will be a dream come true if I make the list someday.
PT: Recently, you were named into a 21-member FIFA Advisory Group. How does that make you feel, especially as the only African player so honoured?
Oshoala: As a young player growing up, I went through a lot of things because of my environment regarding women’s football. I have always been a person who likes to make things right, which was why I set up my foundation as well without being noticed.
I am really happy to be a part of this technical group; I am really happy to share my ideas and what I feel is happening in Africa as it concerns football.
At the end of the day, it is to bring forward the errors and what is making us stay back with the ambition of making things better. The goal is to make African football get to the next level.
When you stay in some certain communities, sometimes you need the bigger platform to raise your opinion, to lay your complaints so that people can actually come in and help you
I have a good relationship with CAF committees and all that, but I feel this FIFA [committee] is a bigger one.
I didn’t ask for this, neither did I apply, so for them to contact me to ask me to be a part of this, they would have seen a thing or two about me and what I have been doing so far.
PT: Many expected you to score against Ghana in Lagos, but you didn’t. Can you assure your fans it is still the lethal Oshoala they have always known?
Oshoala: I get the emotion and everything that comes with the fans; it is a beautiful thing to see that women football is getting much attention to the extent that fans are now expecting certain things from certain players; I am really happy about that but I will also want everyone to understand that most times in football, it is about the team first while individual glory can come after.
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I am really happy we got the win and two-goal advantage. We are going to Ghana with much confidence as a team and who says, I can’t score in Ghana. For those that are unhappy I did not score in Lagos, I apologise, but there are still a lot of games ahead and the goals will come.
PT: Do you think the Super Falcons have wrapped up this tie with the 2-0 win in Lagos?
Oshoala: If you ask me, 2-0 is nothing in football, it can be cancelled in a matter of minutes, playing at the highest level of football. I have seen these things happen many times. So we are going to Ghana like it is still 0-0. We will work hard to at least get an away goal to also increase our advantage. We will give our 100% to see that we progress. With the defeat against South Africa, we are like wounded Lions, so we are determined to put in all our best effort to see that we progress in the qualifiers.
PT: You are seen as the biggest brand as far as female football is concerned in Nigeria and even Africa. What are you doing to encourage those coming behind you?
One thing I used to say to every player in this team is that I started from the youth team also; from the U-20 before I was welcomed to the Falcons. I have no reason to push the younger players away because I wasn’t pushed away when I was new in the team.
So as much as possible, I try to encourage the new players coming behind. I try to be very open with them; they know if they need anything from me; boots, kits, and all that they can always reach out to me. If they are worried about a thing or two, they know they can talk with me and I will always encourage them and make them confident in themselves.
PT: Do you agree that the rest of Africa is closing the gap on Nigeria and our dominance is now being threatened?
Oshoala: The Nigerian team (Super Falcons) we are the most successful team in Africa with nine AWCON titles, one thing every Nigerian should have in mind is that all these other countries are gunning for the record and each time they play against Nigeria, they want to go all out.
Look at the Central African Republic recently against the Super Eagles. They were simply playing like wounded Lions, with no technicalities, nothing, but they won the game. That is usually how it is when we play other teams.
The truth is, they are working hard to catch up, but we are also not relenting. Throughout this year also we on our part have also been trying to up our game. We have been playing different friendly games and tournaments.
The NFF has really tried ensuring we make use of every FIFA window, which is very good for our football. We used to play Ghana for many years and they are always difficult to beat but see, even though we were not at our best level, we still beat them 2-0. So it shows that if we have more camps, we will keep getting better. As a team, we are not relenting and we are not living on past glories.
PT: Looking at your Foundation, even as a young player yourself, you are already doing your bit of taking young girls off the street and helping them make a life for themselves. How do you feel about the impact you are making?
Oshoala: I feel really happy with what we are doing, each time we have the programme every year, I sit down on the side to look at the girls, and deep down I know I never had the chance they are enjoying while I was growing up.
We are doing our bit to change the mentality of the parents about their girl children interested in football. We made them see their children can play football and still go to school. This is what majorly obtains in Europe, some of the players we even play against are still in school, so we want that here too.
I am really happy the Foundation is growing. We’ve produced a couple of players that have even represented the national team, but we are not making noise about that because we are not preoccupied with seeking attention. Our main goal is to see that we create bigger opportunities for these young players.