Golden Oshoala: Getting set to perpetually lead a generation

Golden Oshoala: Getting set to perpetually lead a generation

Article first published in 2014

“If you were lucky (like me) to see Perpetual Nkwocha evolve in the Super Falcons, you would realize that the “god of soccer” has blessed Nigerian football with her heir apparent.”

The just-ended FIFA Under 20 Women’s World Cup in Canada climaxed with an anticlimax for Nigerians; both players and fans. The Super Falconets had overcome a tentative start to the tournament (when they were forced to a draw by Mexico) to blaze through to the finals.

In fact, it was a steady rise by the girls, edging past group opponents South Korea and England before peaking at the appropriate time, recording a 4-1 win over New Zealand in the quarter-finals and annihilating North Korea 6-2 in the semis before meeting their waterloo in the fiery-looking Germans.

Many among us sincerely believe we might have blown away our best chance to secure an elusive win over Germany at any level of Women’s football in recent years but in the midst of the disappointment stood a blessing that glowed in the apparent dark nights in Moncton and Monreal.

Born on the 9th of October 1994, Asisat Oshoala was featuring in her second Under-20 tournament in Canada after having started four of the six games at Japan 2012 but unlike back then, this was a more successful outing for her and the team.

The Rivers Angels of Port Harcourt all-rounder (as I choose to call her position on the pitch) impacted on the team’s all round play en-route a second place finish. She scored, assisted, fouled, was booked and won the topmost individual awards in the tournament.

Having distinguished herself at the Under-20 tournament, the next stage for Asisat is obviously the senior Women’s team, the Super Falcons where she is already a regular. Oshoala scored four goals (two in each leg) as the Falcons romped to a 12-1 aggregate win over Rwanda thereby booking a place in October’s African Women Championships to be staged in Namibia.

Since the exit of renowned Super Falcons’ Number 4 Perpetual Nkwocha from the national team, ardent followers of women’s football have been searching for the one that will be there to carry the team’s burdens upon her shoulders and provide inspiration to win major titles the way Perpetua did.

At age 36, Perpetual Nkwocha could not weigh in the goals as she used to do at the 2012 AWC, a situation that resulted in the team’s 4th placed finish to cap a disappointing year in which Nigeria failed to qualify for the Olympic Games. Perpetual was done, but just at the appropriate time, we find a successor.

In Asisat Oshoala, Nigeria has got the kind of replacement that Argentina got for Diego Maradona (in Leo Messi). If you were lucky (like me) to see Perpetual Nkwocha evolve in the Super Falcons beginning from the Sydney 2000 Olympics, you would realize that the “god of soccer” has blessed Nigerian football with her heir apparent.

They are like-for-like with the same height range, same technique, identical burst of pace and so on. As young as Asisat is, Canada 2014 was not the first time she will lead a team. Followers of the Nigerian Women Premier League would attest to how significant she has been for table toppers Rivers Angels in the past one and half seasons.

Oshoala led Angels to the Women’s Federations Cup title in her native Lagos in 2013 and this year, they are on course for a league and cup double. They will contest the Fed Cup finals against Sunshine Queens and still lead the way on the league log. Such is her impact that the team was unbeaten in the season (after 16 league and cup games) before they travelled to Canada but she will learn on her return that they have been beaten by Osun Babes and Bayelsa Queens.

It is however relatively easy for her to translate such leadership role into the national team since up to 8 (eight) members of her club feature prominently for the Super Falcons while some of her mates in Canada will also make it to Namibia for the A.W.C come October.

To compare these two queens on the FISCO STATTO spectrum, take a look at this:
4 is the Magic Number
– As you can see in the picture above, they both wear the Number 4 jersey.
– Hope you noticed the white armbands on the wrist of both stars?
– As a true number 4, Perpetua Nkwocha won the African Women’s Championships 4 times; African Women’s Footballer of the Year, 4 times and scored 4 times in the final of the 2004 AWC against Cameroon in South Africa (Nigeria wore white (pix above).
– Just wait to see Asisat do this. Remember she wore 4 and scored 4 goals against North Korea (we wore white also) in the semis in Canada? Her first of African Women Footballer of the year and A.W.C crowns should follow this year (remind me then).

Well, it is just Fisco’s way of adding excitement to serious matters. They are real anyways and they happened. Whether they are indicators or not is left for you to witness.

GUARDIANSHIP
This is the time this lady needs Nigeria and Nigerians most. She needs to be guarded and mentored especially by legends of the women’s game in Nigeria and trust me she will lead us beyond what we can think of at the moment.

As she continues to revel in her double individual awards (Golden Ball and Golden Shoe), she has to realize that the journey ahead of her is still very far (ask some of our Under 17 men that won best players in FIFA tournaments in recent years) and so cannot afford to rest on her laurels by now.

Pressure comes with it, she will not be able to walk freely in town but some people managed it so she is expected to do if the promises made by her colourful outing in Canada will be delivered on.

FINAL NOTE
I’ve gone beyond my characters, but I can go on and on. I hope the comparison sinks deep and Asisat won’t allow this success get into her head. I wish her, the Women national teams and Nigerians the best of luck as I look forward to great things from the Super Falcons on October 25, 2014 (final date for A.W.C 2014).

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