Super Falcons striker Perpetua Nkwocha is making a big impact in the immigrant community in Sweden by training refugees mostly from the strife-torn Afghanistan, the BBC has reported.
Former African Women’s Footballer of the Year Nkwocha has been based in the northern town of Skelleftea in Sweden for more than seven years.
Now the multiple African champion, who is player-coach for a local team, spends much of her spare time this winter coaching a group of Afghan teenagers, some of the hundreds of young migrants who have arrived in the town in recent months.
“I feel that it’s similar – which is why I have to try to make them happy, because I know where they came from,” she told the BBC.
“I feel so glad that I connected with them and we started this project together.
“We try to make them feel welcome, try to make them feel happy, try to make them get friends and associate with other Swedish [people].”
The project, which has only been running since November, was set up by her club, Clemensnas IF, in co-operation with the local football association and the Swedish church.
“It is really a way of giving these immigrants and refugees something to do during the day,” said Jens Karlsson, the chairman of Clemensnas.
“If they love soccer they can come here and practise with Perpetua, who is a great soccer player – so that’s the purpose of the whole thing, to help in the immigration of these guys.”
“She’s a good coach, we’re all happy,” Habibullah, one of the Afghan kids, told the BBC – before excitedly outlining plans for a team being put together once the group has settled in.
Nwocha says she enjoys her life in Skelleftea, people are friendly – it is just the cold that is difficult.
“You cannot get used to this weather. There is no fashion in winter,” she says, adding that layers are imperative.
She has a busy life, attending classes to improve her Swedish – as well as the teenage-coaching project.
Her main role will be to lead Clemensnas to success once the season gets going again in May.
But the so-called “Football for All” scheme is close to her heart – and she is putting just as much effort into that at the moment.
“I feel so great being with these lovely children here,” she said.
“I feel like I’m home, you know – just like when I train my boys back home in Nigeria – I feel the same way here.”
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