Morocco 2022 Will Be Difficult, But We Won’t Disappoint — Oshoala

In 2014, she won the highest goal scorer award at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup tournament and finished as the best player of the same tournament in Canada. Since then, she has not looked back, winning the African Women’s Footballer of the Year a joint-record four times, an honour she shares with her compatriot, Perpetua Nkwocha. She has played at Liverpool and Arsenal in England and presently, she stars at Barcelona of Spain. She is rated as one of the biggest women footballers out of Africa and one that is equally, highly rated in the world. Rulers’ World Magazine cornered the highly revered Nigerian International, Asisat Oshoala (M.O.N.) and she bare it all ahead of the Women Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) in Morocco.

Congratulations Asisat on finishing as the joint top scorer in the 2021/2022 Spanish League, how does it feel becoming the first African woman to achieve this feat in the Spanish PrimeraDivision?

​I feel really happy winning the top scorer of the season award, even when I was out injured for a couple of months, about four or five months due to injuries but I just think it’s like a reward for hard work and other work that I have put in before and during the season, even coming back from injury in January I had only a couple of weeks to play and still putting in every efforts and all of that, so I feel really happy about it.

You have also made history with Barcelona as they became the first team in Spanish football history to win the league title with a perfect unbeaten record. Could you have believed you were going to achieve such before the start of the season?

​ The mentality we have in our team is very different. We always believe we can do better than the last game so each game that we go into, we put in a 120 percent effort because we want to win and even knowing that we win a lot of games, we still go out there to put in 100 percent effort. We don’t go in there relaxed or thinking it’s not going to be so difficult, we had a perfect unbeaten run this season winning almost all the games, we have an amazing squad, amazing coaching crew and the staff are all amazing.

Now let us shift focus to the national team, how are you looking forward to the next AWCON coming up in Morocco?

​Oh yea, as usual, the Africa women cup of Nations, always fun, always a privilege getting the opportunity to represent your country again and I think it’s really going to be a good one after getting postponed the last time and then we getting the opportunity to compete again against other teams in Africa and it’s going to be an amazing one particularly that we have a different format of qualifying this time around which gives all the best teams from each region the chance to come out and participate. Just like at the last AWCON in Ghana, Nigeria have been grouped alongside South Africa.

Given the recent rivalry between both sides, should we expect a final before the final in the group game?

​ In the group game I think we are playing against South Africa first, to be honest with you I think this tournament is not going to be easy. But as a team, we have a goal, yea, there is rivalry between Nigeria and South Africa, they are a good side and they are really difficult to beat right now but of course Nigeria is also a tough one to beat so it is really going to be an interesting match. What I can guarantee right now is that it is going to be an entertaining match up so yes it can be called the final before the final because the last time we met them, we lost to them.

The four teams that make it through to the semifinals of the AWCON will make it to the next FIFA Women World Cup, does that add to the pressure going into this year’s edition of the nation’s Cup?

​ This tournament is not going to be easy for any country. Each match is going to be like a war zone, each game because everyone wants to go to the world cup; everyone wants to participate at the world cup. The tournament is going to be pretty interesting this time around as well. We are going to have a more competitive tournament and yes of course, expect it to be more difficult than usual.

​At the last FIFA Women World Cup in 2019, Africa had two teams making the round-of-16 stage, for the first time. How do you rate the growth of the game in Africa?

​ Personally I feel like moving to the next round, the round of 16 shouldn’t be what we will be celebrating but also again we celebrated it because it was like it came after a long time. To be honest with you, we need to improve on the competitions and everything. We have to prioritize women soccer if we really want to get to the next level. Reaching the round of 16 should be a usual for us in Africa considering the amount of talent that we have here so personally I think the goal we should be having for ourselves should be higher than the round of 16.

What more is needed to ensure women football in Africa gets to the level of football as it is being witnessed in the European and American continent.

​ I think we are still far behind. There is a problem with organization; there is a problem with investment. There are still not a lot of people who believe in women football, we don’t have so many countries who believe in women soccer for them to invest their money or their time or something in the game and this is what the Europeans are enjoying, this is what the Americans are enjoying. The other continents have people investing their money, they have the men teams and they are ensuring they equally have the women teams as well, the moments the men teams get things, it gets to the women teams as well, for example in Barcelona, we have our own sponsors, the men have theirs, so it’s just about investment, people willing to invest their money and time and every other thing then we can move down to infrastructures. We don’t have good pitches, if you want to compete at the highest level or you want to be the best then you must put some certain things in place. There is no magic to these things, people expect for example when Nigeria plays against USA or some countries in Europe, for us to win but what have you done to support the game? You want South Africa to go play against teams like Spain, let’s say the Netherlands, and we want them to win, the truth is that we are just growing but those people, it took them years to get to that level and it took people’s time, trust and investment to get to that level, so we need the same energy from our own continent as well.

You started the Asisat Oshoala Foundation in 2019 to focus on empowering girl footballers in Africa, three years down the line, can you brief us about the progress made so far?

​ My foundation is five years old, to correct that, we are over three years old. Well, it’s been an amazing journey. The main aim of this foundation is to give hope to the girl child around me and also to give hope to the people around me who are actually in a difficult situation, who don’t believe in themselves, who tried to give up because things are not working out for them at the moment. Just for them to believe in the future and as for the girl child, just because of the difficulty I went through while I was growing up, I just feel like setting up this foundation will actually help me to help these kids, to explain to them the things that I went through and and for them to look at my journey and be hopeful for the future.

What was your reaction when you heard the news of your being named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 last year?

​My reaction when I got named in the Forbes 30 fewer than 30 last year? It was good for me. I had a good feeling. It just sent a message to me that I should continue to be myself, that there are people out there who look up to me, who actually follow what I do and enjoy what I do but I am not just keeping tab of it, so for me as I always say, I believe I am representing the whole of Africa. When I go out there, I put in a 101 percent effort because I know this is not just about me, for example, in my team, I am the only African player playing out there in Barcelona so when I go out there, I put the whole continent on my back because I want them to know that there are great talents in Africa, good players that can actually play at the best and highest level as well so it’s just amazing how people see your life, how people follow you, how people love what you do and how it impacts their lives and you are not even aware of it. I was very happy about it and I just feel it’s a reward for hard work.

Finally, your advice to upcoming girl footballers in Africa looking up to you as a role model in the game.

​ My advice to the young African girl coming up is that you have to keep pushing, you have to keep trying, the people who you actually look up to, they went through things to get to that level as well, for example myself, I have my own story, that is why my story is on Youtube, anywhere you go, on google and everywhere as well. There is always a story, a beautiful and a rough story behind every successful person in life, you have to keep being yourself, you have to keep working hard, you have to make sure you are disciplined as well because that is the most important part. People forget that part, it’s not just about going to train everyday or going to work, there are actually some things you have to do off the pitch that helps you to shape and model your game too so yea, that’s what I just have to say. You just have to work hard and be prayerful; I mean I am from a very very religious home so I don’t play with prayers. That’s what makes a complete individual.

Thank you for your time and best of luck going into the WAFCON

​ Thanks for having me too.