Monday 31 July 2023, 06:00

Asisat Oshoala: Football has changed the way I see the world

“Football means the world to me. It’s changed my life. Playing football has changed the way I see the world. I try to take every chance I can to get on the pitch and inspire people and help younger generations.”

In a time marked by conflict and crisis, the world is divided. But through the power of football, the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ will bring people together, allowing them to unite - discovering new cultures, being part of a worldwide community and celebrating together.

FIFA’s flagship campaign, Football Unites the World is a global movement that will inspire, unite and drive development through football, with FIFA Legends sharing stories of what football’s uniting power means to them.

Prior to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, we asked Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala to share her footballing memories with us and her views on the power of football to unite the world.

When the legendary Perpetua Nkwocha scored her final international goal in October 2014, the last in a 6-0 defeat of Zambia in the CAF African Women’s Championship, Super Falcons fans were left asking themselves when they would see another player of her ability break into the team. What they did not realise was that just such a player was already on the pitch: a young Asisat Oshoala, who had struck Nigeria’s fifth just minutes earlier.

Oshoala confirmed her rich talent by scoring three other goals at that tournament – helping Nigeria lift the trophy – and walking away with the award for best player. A few months earlier, she had a big hand in Nigeria finishing runners-up at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014™, a tournament in which she won the adidas Golden Boot and Golden Ball, providing a glimpse of what the future had in store for her and confirming what she had known for a long time: football was her life.

“Football means the world to me. It’s allowed me to be who I am and it’s made me look at the world differently. It’s changed my life,” said the 28-year-old forward, who made her Nigerian league debut at the age of 15 with her first club, Robo, and has gone on to play in England, China PR and Spain, her home since joining Barcelona in 2019.“It’s allowed me to experience different cultures, meet people, discover their cultures and learn how they live. It’s also made me see my own community differently, because when I was younger I never thought about the things I do now.”

One of the best players in the world today, Oshoala is aware that she is a role model for passionate young female footballers around the world. “Playing football has changed the way I see the world. I try to take every chance I can to get on the pitch and inspire people and help younger generations. I’m a symbol of hope for lots of girls because of where I’m from and because of my religion, my family, and so many other things.”

Her journey from the pitches of her home town on Ikorogu to the FIFA Women’s World Cup has given the five-time African Women’s Footballer of the Year (2014, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2022) countless opportunities to see how football can unite people.

“People from all over the world fall in love with each other because of football. It’s a thrill for them,” said Oshoala, who is also a three-time Spanish league champion and has twice lifted the UEFA Women’s Champions League trophy.

“When that happens, you can imagine what lessons people can draw from it to apply to their own lives too,” she added. “You don’t have to know people to be kind to them. You don’t have to know people to encourage them or give them something. If you ask me, football unites the world in different way. It has the power to bring peace to the world.”