These athletes are scoring victories in Nigerian women’s football

For many Nigerians, football isn’t just a game; it’s a deep passion that cuts across age, gender, and background. This passion fuels Nigerian football, and it’s not just the men’s team, the Super Eagles, who are making waves. Nigerian women’s football is on the rise, breaking records and inspiring the next generation.

Cue in the Super Falcons, Nigeria’s female national team

Known as the Super Falcons, the female national team has achieved significant success in Africa and internationally. The team is Africa’s most successful international women’s football team, having won a record eleven Women’s Africa Cup of Nations titles—their most recent in 2018—after defeating South Africa in the final. The team is also the only women’s national team from the Confederation of African Football to have reached the FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinals and the Summer Olympics.

Nigerian women’s football is a battlefield not just on the pitch but for equality off it. The “Super Falcons” weave through a maze of stereotypes, scoring goals for themselves and a generation of girls. Their remarkable achievements are a testament to their talent, but the road is far from smooth. Stigma and discrimination based on gender still linger, with cultural and religious norms often acting as roadblocks. The perception of women as physically inferior fuels a lack of opportunities, forcing the Super Falcons to fight not just for wins but for the right to play.

Toochukwu Oluehi, a goalkeeper on the Nigerian women’s national team, complained in an interview of low salaries, delayed paychecks, and being treated as second-class players by the men’s team.

“We’re the people bringing glory to the land. So, they should look into the females and try to concentrate more on the females and leave the boys. The boys are earning more than the girls,” Oluehi said.

Tochukwu Oluehi: Super Falcons' penalty-saving queen inspiring Nigeria's quest for World Cup glory - Soccernet NG
Tochukwu Oluehi via Soccernet NG

Research shows that women receive only 4% of sports media coverage. Female athletes in Nigeria also receive significantly less media coverage than their male counterparts. This lack of visibility leads to reduced sponsorship opportunities and public recognition.

Despite these hurdles, they remain undeterred, displaying resilience and breaking boundaries that transcend sports, becoming powerful symbols of women’s societal progress. Players such as Asisat Oshoala and Michelle Alozie have contributed immensely to the success of the Super Falcons and gained a lot of publicity.

However, there are several remarkable athletes who have not only excelled in their careers but have also inspired the next generation of female footballers:

Onome Ebi

Onome Ebi via Instagram

Ebi is a Nigerian professional footballer who plays as a centre-back for the Nigerian club Abia Angels and the Nigerian women’s national team.

In 2023, she became the first African footballer (male or female) to play in six FIFA World Cup tournaments, taking part in the 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019 editions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a feat only matched by Japan’s Homare Sawa, Christine Sinclair of Canada, and Brazil’s Marta.

Despite her remarkable success, Onome maintains immense humility, hardwork and commitment to ensuring more wins for the Super Falcons.

“When we are in camp, I see myself like every other player. I don’t see myself as special. Every other person can see and take me special or accord me respect but when we are on the pitch, we are all equal…I love the game and will continue to do my best for the country.”

Rasheedat Ajibade

Rasheedat Abijade via Instagram

Fueled by passion and driven by dreams, Rasheedat Ajibade continues to excel in the world of football.

The Nigerian footballer is a forward on the Nigeria women’s national team, known for her speed, skills, and scoring ability. She is commonly called “Rash,” a shortened form of her first name. Rash achieved remarkable milestones before celebrating her 18th birthday, representing Nigeria at the U17 World Cup in 2014, captaining the side in the 2016 edition, and featuring in the U20 Women’s World Cup, all in the same year.

In 2018, Rash was recognised for her outstanding talent and achievements when she was named NFF Young Player of the Year. The accolades did not stop there; later that year, she played a crucial role in helping Nigeria secure victory at the CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, where they emerged as champions. At only 23, she has played in two World Cups and won the Africa Cup of Nations. She’s part of a talented crop of Nigeria internationals who are brimming with confidence about their ability to climb football’s world order.

Uchenna Kanu

Uchenna Kanu via Instagram

Kanu is a Nigerian football striker for NWSL club Racing Louisville and the Nigerian women’s national team. Her ability to score crucial goals in key moments makes her a valuable asset for any team. As of April 2024, Kanu has been featured in over 89 matches, scoring 32 goals in her club career, making her a key player for the club. With the Super Falcons, she has scored 20 goals in more than 30 appearances for the national team.

With her incredible vision and skills, she has achieved numerous achievements in her career journey. She won the WAFU Women’s Championship as its top scorer in 2019 and went down in history as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Player of the Year.  To encourage the younger generation, Uchenna repeatedly recounts her grass-to-grace story as an inspiration to females who wish to pursue a career in sport.

Ifeoma Onumonu

Ifeoma Onumonu via Instagram

Onumonu is an American-Nigerian female professional football player who plays for the Nigeria women’s national team and Gotham FC in the National Women’s Soccer League. In her career, she has played for several clubs in the United States and has won numerous awards as a striker from the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). This includes the NWSL Best XI Second Team in 2021, NWSL Team of the Month in June 2019 and August 2021, and NWSL Player of the Week in 2019 and 2021.

 In June 2021, she received her first call-up to the Nigeria Women’s National Team and has since been vital to the country’s performance. In the 2023 NWSL regular season, Onumonu appeared in 14 matches and started in four, recording 370 minutes and one assist. She helped the Super Falcons to a Round of 16 appearance.

Chiamaka Nnadozie

Chiamaka Nnadozie via Instagram

Nnadozie, the goalkeeper for Paris FC, is renowned for her incredible saves and commanding presence in goal. As one of the top goalkeepers in women’s football, she was one of the Super Falcons’ best players at the Women’s World Cup.

She started representing her country immediately in the U-20 and participated in the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. She played all four matches in the tournament and performed well against Haiti, earning the Player of the Match award. Nnadozie was selected to play for the senior national team at 19 in preparation for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

Nnadozie once again assisted the Super Falcons in winning the gold medal at the African Games in Morocco following the 2019 World Cup by saving three penalties against Cameroon in the shootout. Not many goalkeepers have played in two World Cups by age 22. Nor do they own the accolade, achieved at 18, of being the youngest goalkeeper in Women’s World Cup history to keep a clean sheet.


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