In the game of football, there are some women raising the bar and planting their footprints in the sands of time. One of such is the striker, Desire Oparanozie.
The lady started her career at Bayelsa Queens, later moved to Delta Queens in 2010 before going abroad to play professional football.
As a junior international, she scored two goals in the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and three goals in the 2012 tournament.
Oparanozie was also a part of the Nigerian team to the African Women’s Championships in 2010 and 2014, winning both tournaments, and scoring a free kick in the 2014 final.
The lady, who has won the Champions League with German side, VFL Wolfsburg three times, currently plays for En Avant du Guingamp, France. Fielding questions from GERALDINE AKUTU, Oparanozie shares her journey into the world of soccer.
What Was Your Growing Up Like?
IT was fun and interesting, with lots of kids in my neighbourhood, plenty of running around in the streets, and playing football with boys. My parents gave my siblings and I good upbringing. My siblings and I are very close.
Tell Us How Your Love For Soccer Started? Did Anyone Influence You?
Football is a game I found myself playing. It’s something I grew up with. I wasn’t influenced by anyone. I think I was born with the interest for it.
How Did Your Parents React When You Wanted To Go Into Playing Football, Professionally?
At first, it wasn’t easy because my mom objected to it. But I was lucky my dad was on my side from day one.
Also, my siblings didn’t have much of a choice. They were indifferent about it. You know how it is in a typical Nigerian home, once the father has decided, everyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter. I was lucky to have my father on my side.
How Long Have You Been Playing Football?
I have been involved in football for as long as I can remember. As far back as when I was 10, but professionally since 2012.
How has the journey been so far?
The journey has been good. I can say that I am among the few lucky ones.
Who Were Some Soccer Role Models You Looked Up To When You Were Growing Up?
Legends such as Mercy Akide and Perpetua Nkwocha. I looked up to them a lot. Even till today, most of the time I try to imagine some of Perpetua’s moves on the field.
Do You Think Women Can Play Soccer More Than Men?
Well, I’ve always maintained that there’s no comparison when it comes to women and men football in terms of strength. And that’s why we don’t ever compete together. But of course, women play as good as the men. It also depends on which team or league you are watching.
What Is Your Training Schedule Like?
Very demanding. As a professional soccer player, we get to practice a minimum of six times every week, excluding games over the weekend. Of course, with that kind of schedule, most times, we struggle to create quality time for family and friends.
What Drives You To Get Up And Go Training Everyday?
The number one thing that drives me is passion among every other thing. I have inexplicable love for the game.
Do You Have A Special Routine Before Going For A Game?
No. I don’t do anything special, because it has become a part of my life, something I engage in every weekend. But the thing is 48 hours prior to every game, I try to stay calm, be in good shape, and remain focused.
Other Than Soccer, What Else Do You Do?
When I am not playing football, I am either resting, or catching up with family and friends, or seeing a movie, reading up something on the Internet. I surf the net a lot. You never know what vital information you might acquire.
What Do You Do In Your Off Time?
My off times are usually when I have time to rest my body for full recovery. So I normally go on vacation.
What Has Been The High Point Of Your Career?
My high point was when I won a major trophy for the very first time. That was in 2010 with the Nigerian women national team at the African Women’s Championship in South Africa.
How Do You Juggle Between Training And Other Things?
The thing is, when I am on the field, either practicing or playing the game, everything else that needs my attention has to wait.
What Has Changed Between When You Started And Now?
A lot has changed. From playing in the domestic league in Nigeria to playing in one of the best and toughest leagues in the world for women football. I have been exposed to so many things. It has been an amazing journey and transformation.
What Changes Would You Like To See In Nigerian Soccer?
A lot of things need to be done better. People, fans need to come out more to watch the ladies games, support and cheer them.
The football administrators, corporate Nigeria needs to support the game, the league board should come together and put these teams out there as well and ensure the players are being paid as at when due.
Although, there are some improvements, but more work needs to be done.
Also, facilities need to be improved on and maintained. We are already blessed with the talent. All these things can happen if there is genuine will to go all the way.
What Makes You Standout On The Pitch?
I would say ‘my strength’ is my strongest point.
What Is The Best Advice You Have Ever Received… How Has It Changed Your Life?
The truth is, I’ve received quite a lot of them and thankfully I’ve been able to differentiate between what’s worth it and what’s not so far. I pray it continues.
As The Africa Women Cup Of Nations Starts, What New Thing Are You Bringing To The Pitch?
I hope to help the team the best way I can to retain the trophy and also qualify for the World Cup next summer in France.
What’s Your Last Word For Women Who Would Like To Venture Into Soccer?
I will always tell them to work hard and believe in themselves, for as long as they’re sure of what they want, they should not lose focus. Everything is possible and achievable. But the truth is it won’t be easy.