By Caleb Kola Okello
Published May 19, 2015
While girls her age were mingling with fellow women and discussing clothes and purses, she opted to play football with boys on sandy pitches. So focused on soccer was she that she dropped out of school to concentrate on the world’s most popular sport.
That girl, Asisat Lamina Oshoala of Nigeria, is not only rated as one of the five top women soccer players in the world, but could, on May 26, 2015, be crowned BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year Award 2015.
The story of Oshoala may well read like the stuff that legends are made of. But is the 20-year-old ready to be considered a legend? Well, perhaps not yet. But the girl who says her love for football did not go down well with her parents who wanted her to study in school appears to be on the right track.
So what drives this girl who now plays for Liverpool Football Club, an English Women’s Super League side?
“My opting to drop out of school for soccer against my parents’ wishes and advice pushes me into working harder for vindication,” says Oshoala whose talent was spotted by a coach as she played with boys on those sandy pitches of Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.
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That coach who spotted her was Emmanuel Osahon. He gave her the chance to play for a Lagos-based women’s soccer team called Robo FC that she helped clinch its maiden State Federation Cup and, once again, ended up catching the eye of Nigeria women’s premier league giants, Port Harcourt-based Rivers Angels FC who signed her up promptly in 2012.
It was while in Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta region that she was switched from playing in the mid field to the front line as a striker. She helped Rivers Angels win their first premier league trophy since 2010 as well as retain Nigerian Women’s Soccer cup.
Oshoala made it to the shortlist of 30 players selected to play for Nigeria in the Junior World Cup in 2009. She was among the six finalists who made it to the Super Falcons team that won a silver medal for emerging second in the tournament that was played in Canada. She scored all the four goals in a match that left South Korea humiliated by conceding four goals without a response. With seven goals in her favour, Asisat Oshoala was named the Best Player of the Tournament in 2014.
It was from this super performance that impressed Liverpool FC to sign her up for its women’s super league, the female version of the immensely popular English Premier League in England. Founded in March 2010, the Women’s Super League comprises eight teams.
On May 26, 2015, the world will find out whether the winner of the inaugural BBC Women’s Footballer will be Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala who has challenged cultural, gender and religious stereotypes to play football or her vastly experienced rivals—Brazil’s Marta Vieira da Silva, Spain’s Veronica Boquete, Scotland’s Kim Alison Little or Germany’s Nadine Kessler.