The Women’s World Cup starts this Saturday, and Canada, the hosts, is feverish with excitement. In the past week we’ve also been inundated with the United States’ insistence that they have now saved global soccer (insert self-praising #FIFAgate articles), and that their women’s team must avenge the loss suffered by their male-counterparts in Brazil last year.
The USA are joint pre-tournament favorites with Germany. Brazil are also likely to be strong. Africa is represented by Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria.
The top women’s team in Africa, Nigeria, are coming to this tournament ready to win. The Falconets have qualified for every World Cup. Their talented squad also boasts BBC’s inaugural Female Footballer of the Year award winner, Asisat Oshoala. Oshoala is a 20-year-old forward who plays her club football for Liverpool (check this brilliant recent goal).
The video of Asisat winning, had me in tears. This is an incredible honor and was voted by fans of the beautiful game to a wondrously gifted and deserving player. It’s not often my heart softens towards winners of football awards. Her humility is breathtaking. She is exactly the type of genuine player that the world needs to look to.
Not only is Oshoala one of the youngest players to be names to the squad, but she beat out FIFA’s 2013 Female Player of the Year Nadine Angerer to win the award and is the first African player to play in the FA women’s Super League. She was also the leading scorer at last year’s U20 World Cup. Here’s a video of her pulverizing New Zealand at that tournament (notice she wears the number 4 shirt, like another great Nigerian striker, Nwankwo Kanu, used to back in the day):
Her passion and sense of responsibility are immense and will be all-present as she will help drive the Falconets to World Cup glory in Canada.
“People find it difficult to believe that there are good teams in Africa,” says Oshoala. “We’re not just going there to complete the numbers, we’re going there to make sure people know African teams are not just pushover teams at the World Cup, we’re going there to fight.”
Today the UK Guardian listed Oshoala as the number one player to watch at the World Cup. Here’s their write up:
The first African import to play in England’s Women’s Super League – with Liverpool Ladies – Oshoala has recently been voted the BBC women’s footballer of the year. Last year in Canada she won the player of the tournament and top goalscorer accolades after shining for Nigeria in the world under-20 finals. Oshoala proved a big reason why the Africans reached the final, eventually losing narrowly to Germany. Now a forward, she began her international career in midfield with her Nigeria team-mates dubbing her “the female Seedorf”. Brought up in a Muslim household in Lagos, Oshoala – known as Superzee these days – shocked her parents by dropping out of school in order to pursue a career in professional football. Yet much as her family had hoped she would follow their example in carving successful careers in the gold and fashion industries, Superzee had caught the football bug while watching Liverpool men’s team on television in Lagos as a child.
Nigeria is in Group D and shall face Australia, Sweden and the United States. And they are champions of Africa. I can’t wait to see Oshoala and her teammates in action. I also hope that the NFF continues to support her and help develop the beautiful game for girls. Not only is Asisat the one to watch, she is the one to emulate.