Asisat Oshoala is one of the world’s highest-paid footballers – on Friday she became the first Nigerian female to earn over £10m in a year. Her £69,500 a week deal with German club Borussia Dortmund has made her a symbol of Nigerian football, a path blazed by Victor Ikpeba who has won the World Cup with the French club Monaco.
Dortmund players and management faced heckling during the Africa Cup of Nations, in which Oshoala scored seven goals for Nigeria, and in Beijing where Oshoala scored a hat-trick to lead the Super Falcons past Brazil. She has been the driving force behind the Harambee Stars’ qualification for the 2019 World Cup with three appearances. It has also been a phenomenal career for a 31-year-old women’s football star whose club career started as a teenager in England. Born in Oguta, in northern Nigeria, the sport played a minor role in her growing up; she enjoyed cricket and was named after an American Eunice Shriver.
A month after her second birthday, Oshoala and her siblings moved from her father to their grandmother’s house near Imo state capital Owerri, 350 miles away. Her grandmother, an enthusiastic coach, taught Oshoala how to throw, kick and shoot. According to Angela Okoroafor, her childhood coach, Oshoala was a friendly but shy girl who was expected to be an obedient maid.
Her parents separated and she left home in 2000 at 16 to join Blackpool of the third tier in the English Football League for £40,000. She kept her promise and played in every match and appeared in the East 17 Cup final to become the first person to represent her country at both the European Championship and the World Cup. After her parent’s separation Oshoala travelled to London, where her father was studying to become a pastor. She joined Arsenal Women as a “feeder player” where she would learn to understand the culture and how to be a role model.