Being the only Nigerian left standing in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) final shortlist for the individual honours for 2017, there are huge expectations that Asisat Oshoala will, like in 2014 and 2016, pick up the African Women’s Player of the Year title again tonight.
Those expectations are not unfounded. Her transfer from Women Super League’s Arsenal Ladies to Dalian Quanjian FC of China has helped put her almost boring stint with Gunners Ladies into a locker of the past.
Not a few derided her decision to move to China. The thinking was that Arsenal Ladies were a fantastic club that could use her talent to the fullest. Her 2016 Women’s FA Cup win with the Gunners notwithstanding, Oshoala had a torrid time in London. Official stats show she scored two goals in 16 matches. What is more? Officials at the club could not find her a proper place in the team.
“A lot of people don’t know much about female football. They think going to China is like going backwards,” she told The Guardian in a recently taped interview.
China is one of the powerhouses in female football, she said, adding that moving to the country was a great opportunity she couldn’t let go of.
Her move to north Beijing-based Quanjian did pay off. In her first season in China, she notched 12 goals including a brace in the final game of the season. Her exploits earned Quanjian a league and Cup double and she was crowned the League’s Best Striker.
With the sad episode of her England stay behind her, the 2015 BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year is devoting some of her time and money into mentoring young female footballers in Lagos, Nigeria where she grew up.
Her Asisat Oshoala Foundation focuses on providing a right blend of education and sports for young girls and presents them with opportunities she never had growing up.
“There is always a way of merging education and football,” she said.
She has lofty dreams for the girls. Out of the hundreds the foundation took under its wings during a clinic held late in 2017, five of them will be given scholarships to school outside Nigeria and will have the opportunity to play professional football.