Super Falcons star Asisat Oshoala takes up the task of liberating girls through her foundation
Asisat Oshoala spoke to Pulse Sports on her mission to give back through her foundation.
One, the quality of the goal. Oshoala beat a defender for speed to get on a pass from deep before she rounded the South Korean goalkeeper to slot into an empty net.
That goal showed why the talented forward is so highly rated. She showed her speed in getting past the defender, strength in holding off the defender and balance to finish the move after going round the goalkeeper. The goal was among the nominees for the Goal of the Tournament.
There is however a bigger story behind that goal, which is bigger than football. It’s a story that fully grasps Oshoala’s task of girl-child emancipation.
Oshoala has achieved so much in her football career and is undoubtedly the face of Nigerian women’s football and sports in general.
For Nigeria, she has won three Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) titles, reached the finals of the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, a tournament where she had her breakthrough, finishing as Best Player and Highest Goalscorer of the 2014 edition in Canada.
In her club career, she has played for some of the biggest names in world football and won several trophies including Nigerian Women Premier League (NWPL) in 2014 and two cup titles in 2013 and 2014 with Rivers Angels. FA Women’s Cup title with Arsenal in 2016 and the Chinese Women’s Super League title in 2017. In May 2019, she became the first African and Nigerian player to score in a UEFA Women's Champions League final when she netted for Barcelona women in their 4-1 loss to Lyon.
On an individual level, she has snagged awards from everywhere. She was the first BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2015, has won African Women’s Player of the Year award three times and several others.
For the girl-child
At just the age of 24, the Barcelona forward still has a lot of time to garner more football success and while she continues in that quest, she has taken up another task bigger than football, which is liberating young girls.
There are success stories already and one of them is in that goal against South Korea at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
It was Super Falcons right-back Chidinma Okeke who played a fine pass from deep for Oshoala to score. But a few years ago, way before they got to be teammates, it was a pass from Oshoala that got Okeke going.
Okeke is one of the success stories from the Asisat Oshoala Foundation, a foundation which the former Liverpool Ladies forward started to help young ladies. Through the foundation, the football star provides support for young ladies who are in a similar environment she grew up in.
“I have an opportunity through football. It is something I acknowledge and I’m grateful for, but beyond football, I am fully concentrated on my foundation,” Oshoala told Pulse Sports in an interview recently.
“Even when I’m not around, my foundation takes care of the less privileged. We’ve been involved in feeding programmes, especially during Ramadan periods, visiting schools, distributing books and educational materials to students and even partnering with a major pharmaceutical company to donate drugs and health equipment to hospitals.
“I believe it’s the only way I can connect with the grassroots. I have a world outside football and that is exactly why I am fully committed to my youth empowerment programme and other social projects.”
Every year, Oshoala through her foundation hosts the Asisat Oshoala U-17 Football Tournament for young girls. Talents discovered from these tournaments get the opportunity to train with Robo FC the club in Mushin that Oshoala started from.
Okeke is one of the success stories of this process and she has since moved up to become a professional footballer with the club and also a Super Falcons star, sharing the dressing room with her idol Oshoala and assisting her to score one of the finest goals of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“Girls that pass through the foundation have got the chance to train with FC Robo. Chidinma Okeke is a success story today,” Oshoala said.
“She played at the World Cup for Nigeria. So, it’s not like they just come and go. We have a vision for these kids, if you want to help someone, you don’t do it halfway. And besides, we currently have three kids in the UK.”
The story of Okeke’s success is what drives Oshoala to continue with her task of liberating young women from poverty and lack of opportunity.
“Life is all about opportunities. I won’t say I was the best player among my friends in those days,” she said.
“I had many of them that were better than me, but you know parents, how they disturb you from playing football. They’ll tell you to go and read your books. Many of my playmates couldn’t go far in the game because of parental opposition.
“I can tell you that I’m the only one that is playing professionally today.”
“Well, I came from a disciplined family. It was difficult to play football,” she continued.
“But the little time I had, I always made sure I seized the opportunity to go play with my friends.
I can only say I’m lucky to be where I am today. Like I said earlier, I had playmates that were better than me back in those days.
“Imagine if my friends had the same continuity that I had.”
This is why Oshoala has made a habit of always going back to Mushin anytime she’s in the country.
Instead of letting her hair down in some resort or vacation spot, the former Arsenal Ladies star goes back to Mushin to train with Robo FC.
“Yes, I could have gone on holidays if I wanted to, but I feel ‘why can’t I use it productively and impact on my community?’,” she said.
“Looking at where I come from, I just feel I should use my spare time to help young girls grow and achieve their dreams. I really derive pleasure in it.”
“FC Robo is my home. I’ll always train there whenever I’m in the country. Training with Robo gives me an opportunity to be me; get to discuss and share the experience with these girls,” she added.
“You can only motivate when you create rapport and connection. Playing there with the girls gives you the opportunity to hear them out, and also share thoughts.”
“We have been trying to talk to parents through seminars and workshops meant to convince them to let their girls play if they are passionate about the game,” Oshoala also said.
“The more parents we convince, the easier it gets to get the girls into the sport.
“We just want them to realise that their girls can still have a future and it is possible if they can balance their education with football.”
Nigerian women are on the lowest rung of poverty condition because of limited opportunities and this is the task Oshoala has taken on and it's been a huge one.
“I have helped pay school fees of some girls and other stuff. I know what we’re going through here it is one of the reasons I took up the responsibilities,” she said.
“Parents give excuses about wards needing to hawk and sell stuff but, I try as much as possible to take care of their educational needs to relieve the pressure.”