Funke Oshonaike is one of Nigeria’s most successful Table Tennis female players, attending every Olympic Games since her debut in Atlanta 1996.
She has represented Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games, various World Championships and remains the most successful Nigerian female table tennis player at the African Games, having claimed the women’s singles title twice in 1999 and 2003, while she was runner-up in 1991 and 2011.
Despite all these successes recorded, some Nigerians have called on her to quit from active service and pave way for upcoming players.
Aclsports.com: Tell us a little about yourself and how you started in this sport
Funke Oshonaike: My name is Olufunke Oshonaike (God gave me to my parents to take care of). I’ve really been loved and well taken care of by my parents. After getting a lot of discouraging messages from lot of people, though not new to me, I’ve decided to let you know a little about this super woman.
I started representing Nigeria at the age of 14. I give God Almighty the glory for this talent and all that I’ve achieved today. This is some of the downs in my life that made me a strong woman.
When I was in primary 6, I ran out of school to play a competition at Rowe Park and I was seriously caned by my teacher but I never gave up on Table tennis. I was always booed each time I played a competition back then in Nigeria because I was very shy. I asked why and I was told that I was proud, arrogant, blunt and I don’t mix with people.
I’m talking about Funke at the age of 13 till 19. I cried a lot, went through a lot, and there was even a time the crowd was going to stab me in Lagos because I defeated their darling Biola Odumosu my arch rival back then at Rowe park. My number one fan, my dad consoled me and still never gave up on table tennis in Nigeria.
Aclsports.com: What decision did you take after all these frustrations thrown at you by Nigerians?
Oshonaike: I left Nigeria after my diploma course at University of Lagos to pursue my professional career; that was my decision even when I was advised not to go. I left Italy after four years to Germany in 1998 because I wanted more that was my decision.
I got pregnant during my career and I was confused on what to do, but I kept it and I was still playing professional Table Table till I was 7 months pregnant which is like a taboo in Nigeria. I even played African championship and won it, though nobody knew I was pregnant. I gave birth to my first child in 2003 and played at the All African Games the same year and won 4 gold medals for Nigeria. My child was barely six month old.
ACLSports.com: How have you been able to attend tournaments lately?
Oshonaike: I’ve been spending my money to represent Nigeria lately and I can’t remember the last time I’ve been paid any allowance or the last time I was rewarded for winning for my country.
I’m very hurt about a lot of things happening in sports in Nigeria but because of the love I have for my country, I’m still trying my best to keep on keeping on. I was born in the 70s and I know one thing for sure that people born in 70’s don’t give up on things easily. We learned ‘ise ni OGUN ise Mura si ise ore mi’ (Work is the cure of poverty). So to some of you discouraging me, you’re just encouraging me indirectly because I’ve gone through a lot in my life that have made me stronger than you.
ACLSports.com: What are your immediate plans for the future?
Oshonaike: All I have to say is that live your life and allow others do the same. I am not giving up on my dreams because of some no life, no dream people. TOKYO 2020, HERE I COME.