How BBC Award ‘Swallowed’ Oshoala In Canada
Ordinarily, such a big award in days leading to the FIFA World Cup should have been a major inspiration for a player, but ‘the reverse’ was the case for Oshoala.
“Shortly after the BBC award was announced, we noticed that Oshoala was behaving somehow,” a top official of the Nigerian team told The Guardian a few minutes after the Falcons were bundled out of the World Cup.
Nigeria was sent out of the competition on Tuesday after losing their last group game 0-1 to USA in Vancouver.
“She even went on twitter to say that she does not know what was happening to her. Oshoala became so depressed,” the official said.
Oshoala signed for Liverpool Ladies early this year to become the first African footballer to join the English FA Women’s Super League. It was a story that was celebrated all over Africa and beyond.
The Ikorodu-born striker is rich with awards and accolades. From winning the golden boot and player of the tournament at the last FIFA U-20 World Cup, Oshoala emerged as best player at the 2014 AWC in Namibia, where she helped the Falcons to lift the title for the seventh time. She was named Africa’s Player of the Year earlier this year at the Glo-CAF Award ceremony in Lagos. The BBC World Footballer of the Year award came in the tick of her preparations for the World Cup.
According to the official, when it became clear that Oshoala was suffering from depression after the BBC award, the sports psychologist attached to the Super Falcons, Kasia Muoto, was detailed to the player (Oshoala).
“The psychologist was with her 24/7 and even other officials, including our leader of delegation (Mrs. Dilichukwu Onyedima) spent time with Oshoala, taking to her not to allow the weight of the BBC Award depress her. But she kept saying that the focus on her was becoming too much. I am sure she is yet to overcome the depression because Oshoala didn’t really perform to expectation in this World Cup. This is not the Oshoala we used to know,” the official said.
From her days as a junior player, Oshoala has been known to be a goal getter. With her bundles of skill, talents and ability to work with her teammates at any given time, Oshoala was the cynosure of all eyes at the African Women Championship in Namibia, where she played with senior players at the top level for the first time.
Oshoala hads built herself into a brand of a ferocious and prolific striker even before her graduation to the senior team. She is not the type who shivers in front of defenders. Overtime, Oshoala has proven her worth as nightmare, tormentor and destroyer of defenders and goalkeepers following her ability to find the back of the net, even in tight situations.
But in Canada, the savvy, strong and black Oshaola was found wanting. “After we came from behind to draw 3-3 with Sweden, we were all expecting the team to go all out and finish Australia in our second group game. We actually relied so much on Oshoala to prove her worth upfront, but that was not to be,” the official said.
“The Oshoala we used to know would rubbish those Australian defenders. On a good day, she would have used that game to announce herself in the competition, but she played as if nothing was at stake. At a point, I began to ask myself if it was the same Oshoala that was playing on the pitch. There was no cohesion in her movement and those amazing skills were nowhere to be found. I won’t blame her much because she is still very young. She may have allowed depression overcome her in this World Cup,” the official said.
In the match against Australia, which the Falcons lost 0-2, Oshoala operated from the line. When it became so clear that her effort was not yielding the needed dividend, Coach Edwin Okon decided to replace her.
At the end of the match, some other officials criticised the coach of playing Oshoala out of her usual role of supportive striker. They pointed out that Oshoala gets tired so easily, and running the lines would make her burn her energy so quickly.
In the last match against USA in Vancouver, Oshoala was moved from the line to the middle of the attack. It yielded no fruit either.
Oshoala was not in the mood to speak after the team’s elimination from the World Cup.
However, the team’s leader of delegation to Canada, NFF board member and chairperson, Women Football Committee, Dilichukwu Onyedima, told The Guardian that she noticed some funny attitude in Oshoala before the commencement of the World Cup, and that she called the player for private talks on few occasions.
“The team psychologists really worked on her. I also called her for private talk, where I advised her to focus her energy on the World Cup and forget the attention she is getting from people. I even told her to call her parents to pray for her because I felt that prayer from parents has a great impact on a child. But let us not put all the blames on Oshoala for our inability to do well in this World Cup.
“The NFF actually gave this team the financial and moral support they needed to do well. But that is one of the things in football. We will go back and plan for the future,” Onyedimma said.
With the Falcons’ exit in the group stage, Nigeria 16-year World Cup jinx of not qualifying from the group stage continues.