On this week’s edition of ACLSportsPod Super Falcons superstar, Francesca Ordega is our guest and she gives a detailed explanation of her journey through the ranks, especially how she defied multiple dislocations at the Japan 2012 U20 World Cup to land her first professional contract after an impressive outing.
Francesca Ordega is a four-time African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) winner with the Super Falcons of Nigeria and in that period she has played in four different continents and in some of the best leagues in women’s football.
However, at the beginning of it all was a defining U20 World Cup campaign where the Super Falcons forward scored four goals including a hat-trick against Italy to emerge Nigeria’s top goalscorer in the competition despite playing through the pain of dislocated fingers, a dislocated shoulder and an ankle injury to land her first pro contract outside Nigeria.
Ordega takes us on a journey…
Prior to the U20 World Cup in Japan, “I had a hand injury so I didn’t train with the team in Nigeria and only joined them on the training tour,” she began.
“A lot of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) officials were trying to see if I would travel but the coach believed in me because I was one of his best players during the qualifiers so he refused to listen to the NFF and took me to the training tour. He told me: ‘Franny I believe in you and I know with this pain if you want to do it, you can do it but this (the NFF) is the problem I’m facing and I don’t want you to disappoint me. I’m taking you to the training tour and I also want to take you to the World Cup. But one thing I want you to do is no matter how you feel try to give everything. If you don’t feel any pain just try to give me what I want.’
“That meant a lot to me. Despite the pain, I went to the training tour because I had to prove the NFF wrong & make the coach proud so I did well in the games we played although I wasn’t training and I made the final list. Some of the players were angry but those who played the qualifiers knew how important I was to the team and we’re happy for me”
Showtime in Japan…
“During the game against Brazil, I had a shoulder dislocation.” This was in addition to the dislocated fingers she was already nursing prior to the tournament on the same limb.
“I went to the touchline and asked the physio to fix it back for me that I want to play. She was hesitant but I insisted and she fixed it. I went back in and scored.”
Fast forward to the recovery session the day after the game.
“We were playing a fun game of four side and three aside so I was trying to have fun and dribble the goalkeeper then she sat on me then my ankle twisted. I sustained an injury and the ankle was swollen. I could barely wear any footwear except the hotel slippers.
“I started the next game with injection to reduce the pain and the ankle was also taped hard so in the event of a collision during the game, I don’t feel any pain. However, after the game I had to go with the physio to the medical room directly to remove the tape which was a very painful experience. I’ll be shouting and screaming because it became even more painful having initially suppressed the pain to play. Florence Omagbemi was the Assistant Coach then and she always told me ‘Franny, I respect you.’
“The physio kept calming me and would apply ice and other things to it while also placing me on medication. So I always rested on the free days in between games while others trained then I would start the next game again.”
Reminiscing on the decision to play through so much pain…
“I had a lot to prove,” Ordega said.
“First, I needed to make my coach proud having believed so much in me. Also, I knew it was my last chance to play at an age-grade competition and show what I am capable of if I wanted to be a professional because it is easier for agents to scout you at that level.
“I also wasn’t going to disappoint the coach and make the NFF say he made the wrong decision by taking me. And I had to prove to my mum that I wanted to be a professional footballer too.
First professional contract…
“It was during the World Cup an agent reached out to us (Desire Oparanozie and I) that the coach of Rossiyanka watched us and would love to have us in his team. We didn’t think twice about it so the next day they brought the contract, we signed and after the World Cup we went to Russia.”
Ordega started out wanting to be an actor in the mould of her favorite screen diva Omotola Jalade Ekeinde; not until she experienced football as a spectator, an active participant and a ball girl. This was the beginning of a long but rewarding journey for the Gboko, Benue state indigene.
Till today, Ordega alongside Ngozi Okobi remain the only players to have scored in every international tournament (AWCON, U17 FIFAWWC, U20 FIFAWWC and Senior FIFAWWC) for the Super Falcons of Nigeria.