By Ihunanya Okoye
Twenty five years ago, it was the dream of Nigeria female footballers to play in countries such as: USA, Norway, Sweden,Canada and China who dominated the Sport globally.
It was obvious then that Nigeria female footballers wanted a change in their chosen profession; a fulfilling career, something different from the lack and chaos that characterised the womens game in Nigeria, known as the Nigeria Women football league(NWFL).
Most Nigeria female footballers desire good pay for their efforts which was hard to achieve in Nigeria then due to the poor state of the league. In pursuit of greener pastures, some of them were fortunate to move to clubs in the aforementioned countries which to them is a dream come true. Moreover, those countries had the best leagues then and presently.
However, the trend has changed now as most Nigeria female footballers have become choosy partly because of their desires.
Most of them choose Spain in recent time which sparked off interest from football enthusiasts who argue often on why Spain have suddenly become the beautiful bride of Nigeria female footballers.
Some Nigeria female footballers who play professional football presently in Spain are:
Asisat Oshoala – Barcelona
Osinachi Ohale – CD Tacon
Rita Chikwelu and Chidinma Okeke – Madrid CFF
Alice Ogebe – Real Betis Feminas
Toni Payne – Sevilla FC
Peace Efih – Sporting de Huelva
Charity Adule – Eibar
More Nigerians are still moving to Spain as Tochukwu Oluehi and Evelyn Nwabuoku pitched tent with CD Pozoalbe.
Furtherance to the quest of Nigeria Female footballers lacing their boots in Spain, reports emerged last year that Spain’s top division secured historic league-wide contracts, after more than a year of negotiations over a pay dispute which saw the players go on strike.
The players also requested for maternity, holiday and injury pay.
The association of clubs (ACFF) and various players’ unions were locked in talks over the league’s first ever collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for nearly 18 months, but finally put pen to paper last year.
Though they had agreed on minimum full-time player salaries of €16,000, the ACFF’s main gripe was with the request for part-time player salaries to be €12,000, rather than the €8,000 they had proposed.
Probably, that is why Spain have become the beautiful bride of Nigeria female Footballers.
To shed light on why Nigerians fancy Spain compared to other countries recently; Super Falcons of Nigeria player,Chidinma Okeke said she inquired about the weather, the pay and other benefits in Spain’s Ibredola prior to her move to Madrid CFF from Nigeria Women Football League side, FC Robo in August 2019. She noted that football in Spain has improved tremendously.
“I don’t know why other players moved to Spain but I asked questions about the weather and other things before I made the decision to move to Spain. Besides, the weather in Spain is not too cold compared to other European countries.”
“ Spanish Ibredola is improving. They are doing what they can to make the league the best in the world .“
Although, the 20 year old defender said she was injured when players in Spain’s Ibredola fought and achieved the historic feat.
Lending her voice, the current Ambassador of the Anambra State Football Association and the most capped Super Falcons of Nigeria player, Maureen Mmadu posited that Nigerian female footballers move to Spain because that is where offers come from and not that they do not desire playing football in other countries.
Mmadu who played for clubs in Norway and Sweden in her active days further explained that the search for greener pastures contributed to Nigerian Footballers prefererence of Spain or any other country to the Nigeria Women Football League.
The former assistant coach of the Super Falcons is of the opinion that Spain is a bit warmer compared to other countries like Sweden and China who want older players with experience of European football.
Maureen Mmadu also disclosed why Nigerians seldom thrive in China. She explained that Asian gladiators, “China go for mature and fast players because the Chinese league is very competitive and they put a lot of money in it which is one of the reasons why they put players under pressure.”
Meanwhile, football pundits in Nigeria have argued that female footballers in other countries in Africa aside from Nigeria are moving to Spain. In their opinion, Spain are injecting African style of football in their league in order to accomplish the mixture of physicality and skill in football.
Aside from the aforementioned opinions why Spain has become the hub of Nigeria female footballers, it is also imperative to take into consideration that La Liga and the Nigeria Women Football League, signed a memorandum of agreement in 2018.The main objective of that agreement is to promote women’s soccer in both countries.
Another objective of the collaboration between the two agencies is to promote women’s access to the sports management, also the cooperation in the development and formation of liability actions , corporate social issues that promote equality gender and the integration of women not only in football, but also in sports.
With this collaboration in mind, one can easily deduce that more Nigerians will move to Spain’s Ibredola in future.