Despite nursing a knee injury that will keep her out of football action for two months, Asisat Oshoala, the captain of Nigeria’s women’s soccer team still ensured that her foundation’s annual tournament was organized to empower young girls in the country happen this December.
The football4girls event is one of the programmes put in place by the Asisat Oshoala Foundation, to give back to Nigeria, a country that gave her the platform to become successful in women’s football.
Initially, there had been reports indicating the event would be postponed due to a knee injury that the four-time African Women’s Footballer of the Year sustained during FC Barcelona’s Women’s Champions League match against Hoffenheim in November.
But with the help of her lieutenants in the management team of Asisat Oshoala Foundation, the participating girls from 50 schools in Lagos did not feel the absence of their mentor.
Through the football4girls tournament, Ms. Oshoala is teaching girls the rudiments of football, while also using the platform to encourage them not to forget their academic activities, as success in education can provide a fallback position when sports is no longer possible.
The consistency in the organization of the football4girls event over the last six years encouraged several sponsors in the sixth edition. Among the sponsors were the Lagos State Government, First Lady’s Office, and Sports Commission. Together three institutions made it possible for the tournament to take place at two centres in the state: the Campos Mini Stadium and Mobolaji Johnson Sports Centre, both on Lagos Island.
Other sponsors were United Bank for Africa (UBA), Emzor Pharmaceuticals, Molped Nigeria, and Pastor Tobi Adegboyega, the founder of Nxtion Family, a Pentecostal Church based in London.
For three days, the all-girl tournament featured mentorship sessions, life skills, and medical programmes, where girls received reproductive health education under the theme “Give out a pad, save the girl-child”. The health day was sponsored by Uzoma Ezeoke, the Executive Director of Emzor Pharmaceutical, a sponsor for the tournament.
“The participating girls were sensitized on the dangers faced by the girl-child through puberty, adolescence to adulthood. We also distributed sanitary pads and feminine products to the girls,” said Tobi Peters, who coordinated the whole programme in the absence of Oshoala.
Molped Nigeria, maker of Molped sanitary pads provided their products for distribution to the girls.
Bola Atta, the CEO of UBA Foundation was a special guest during the final ceremony held at the Mobolaji Johnson Sports Centre.
Atta used her presence to talk to the girls about the importance of taking their education seriously. She emphasized that even if they are talented and skillful in football, education will also give them a better future, especially when there is no more energy to play the game on the field.
Recuperating Captain of Nigerian senior women team, Oshoala in her message said that though she could not physically attend the football4girls event this year, she was happy to see the foundation being laid for these future football superstars.
Timescape Magazine’s interactions with some of the girls revealed that the 2021 Football4girls Tournament was an event the girls enjoyed. Over the three days, the girls relished the mentorship and practical field training from the coaches of the Asisat Oshoala Foundation.
Oladipupo Shukura of Oracle Queens, who won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in the academy’s category wants more football4girls tournaments, as these provide a chance for further exposure to football.
Rasheed Balogun, a coach at Isale Eko Grammar School, Lagos Island said the girls have seen Oshoala as a role model and are now looking forward to attaining the height which she has reached in global football.
Francisca Ologun, Coach of Queen’s College, Lagos said the football4girls tournament has been a good motivator for girls, adding that if other Nigerian senior players could take a cue from what Oshoala has been doing through the foundation, sports would be better in Nigeria.
“This event has given the girls the positive social change to chart a path for themselves in life and has also given these girls the opportunity to pursue a career in football while continuing with their education,” Ologun said.
At the end of the three-day event, Oshoala ensured that winners in the 2021 edition were adequately rewarded for their participation in the sixth edition.
The Nigerian striker, who currently plays for Barcelona gave out prizes, with Oracle Queens who defeated Victory Queens in the final of the academy’s category receiving N500, 000 ($1,217).
Winners in the school’s category, Isale Eko Grammar School who beat Dolphin High School went home with the sum of N250,000 ($609).
The MVP winner in the academy’s category, Oladipupo Shukura of Oracle Queen and Oluwole -Azeezat of Isale Eko Grammar School who won the highest goal scorer award in the school’s category were rewarded with the sum of N250, 000 ($609) each.
Oshoala also gave out sports equipment worth millions of Naira to the participating teams, setting the stage for continued training and practice for these footballers that now have an opportunity to make it as stars.
Timescape Magazine understands that the Football4girls project has produced over 10 girls for Nigeria’s under U-17 and U-20 teams. Rashidat Ajibade and Chidinma Okeke are the notable names and this year’s event is also expected to spur the growth of new stars.
Ajibade was the most valuable player of the 2017 edition of the football4girls tourney, and she made her debut for the Super Falcons in 2018. She now plays for a Norwegian side, Avaldsnes IL.
Okeke won the most valuable player award for the 2018 edition of the football4girls tourney, and like Ajibade, she also made her debut for the Super Falcons the following year, and now plays for Madrid CFF in Spain.