As the Super Falcons of Nigeria filed out against their Norwegian counterparts at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup, deep thoughts were most certainly running through the mind of the team’s central back, Onome Ebi, as she set a record of being the first African footballer – both in the male and female categories – to play in five World Cup tournaments. Onome made history on Saturday night (June 8, 2019) at the age of 36, when most athletes her age have retired or are playing at low level.
The Lagos State-born athlete (May 8, 1983) started her professional career by featuring for Nigerian Women’s Championship team, Bayelsa Queens FC before leaving to play for Swedish sides Pitea IF, and later Djurgardens IF. She would go on to play for other professional teams including Duvenciler Lisesispor, Atasehir Belediyespor (where she made her Champions League debut in 2012), Sunnana SK, and FC Minsk. She is currently playing for Henan Huishang, a second division side in China.
Trophies she has won at the club level include: Belarusian Premier League, Belarusian Women’s Cup, and the Belarusian Women’s Super Cup which she has won twice. For the Nigerian national team, she has won four African Women Nations Cup titles with the Falcons.
Onome Ebi’s first World Cup experience was at the 2003 edition in the United States. She would go on to represent Nigeria at the games in 2007, 2011, 2015, and the now 2019.
I can never forget my first World Cup, it is something I will [remember] for life… It is kind of funny because I entered with… full confidence. I [wanted] to go and play with big stars and all that, but when I got into the pitch it really [showed that I was] a baby because there was a situation where I was trying to dribble.
“I am a defender and I was trying to dribble. We played against the United States… they got the ball from me and [scored].–Onome Ebi
The success story of Onome did not start so rosy. She had a career-threatening injury in 2017 that was supposed to bring her career to an end at the age of 34. One would easily advice her to quit because she already made her mark in the football world prior to the injury, and 34 is not a bad age for an athlete to retire. Despite the odds against her, she did not give up like most people would do. Onome went through it all and returned stronger and better.
“This time… two years [ago], I had an injury. I fractured my arm. It was really bad [and] I went through surgery. I stayed off football… for a year… everybody gave up on me.”Onome Ebi
“Mama”, as she is fondly called by her team mates, is without doubt an inspiration for athletes, spurring women on to achieve their dreams regardless of their gender. Young and aspiring footballers can sure look up to her as an example and role model to emulate. Onome is proof that self-belief, consistency and hard work cannot be underestimated in one’s drive towards success.
“You know how it feels when you get something you’ve been working for for years… and it finally come to pass. You’ve achieved it.“Onome Ebi
Featured image source: newscentral.ng