Veteran Super Falcons forward, Perpetua Ijeoma Nkwocha has revealed how playing football with boys in her village on the streets of Ngo Okpalla in Imo state, dashed her childhood dreams of being a Reverend sister or a Lawyer. She tells RICHARD JIDEAKA in this interview that she has no regrets becoming a footballer. Read on…….
Briefly tell us about who you are and your family background?
I am Perpetua Nkwocha. I was born in 1976 in Ngo Okpalla in Imo state to a family of seven, I am the third child of the family and also the first female. I am the only established footballer in my family.
What was your parents’ reactions when you chose football as a career?
It was hell in my house when I took to football. First, they scolded and punished me for playing football with boys on the streets. They wanted me to face my education and be a successful woman after graduating from the university. I usually sneaked out to play football with boys and they only gave up when they became convinced that my mind was made up about making a career from football. I had my breakthrough in secondary school, when my school was picked to represent my local government in a competition in Owerri zone.
After the competition, I was invited by Larry’s Angels FC (now Rivers Angels) of Port-Harcourt.That was how I started competitive football.
Do you have any regrets making that decision to take football as a career?
No, not at all, I have no regrets. Why should I? when the game has brought me fame and comfort. I have really enjoyed my entire playing career.
Has football made you rich and comfortable?
Football has done well for me. I am not rich but it has made me comfortable and I must say it has rubbed on my family and I am happy. Football has taken me to many places and I have seen the high and mighty of the national and international societies playing this game.
If you were not a footballer, what would you have been?
I had always wanted to be a Reverend sister or a Lawyer growing up, but my love for football was too much and I followed my passion.
When you retire from active football, do you have plans to go back to school to study law or go back to the convent to actualize your childhood dreams of being a Reverend sister?
Hahaahaa, I can no longer be a Reverend sister again because you know I am no longer qualified to be one. It is too late now, so that is that. As for becoming a Lawyer, that one is ruled out completely because I cannot divorce myself from football. I love football and I still have a lot to contribute to the game. I want to go into full-time coaching when I stop playing.
When are you likely to retire from active football and go into coaching?
I will retire soon, I’ll let Nigerians know when I am ready to quit active football. Presently, I am training to be a coach, in Sweden. I will soon be a qualified coach, then I’ll let you know my next move.
After almost two decades of playing for Super Falcons and featuring in three World Cup tournaments, what are you bringing to the present Super Falcons?
I bring experience. I also bring unity, joy and quality to the team. Most of these players are going to the World Cup for the first time. They need to learn a few things from me. I think I am still relevant to the team.
How far do you think the Super Falcons can go at the World Cup in Canada?
We can go far at the World Cup in Canada. I see the zeal to do well in the players and I believe we can cause a stir in Canada if we stay together, have one spirit and play to instructions. We need to play some quality friendly games to know our strengths and weaknesses before the World Cup. I believe in this team.
You have scored many goals in your career, which of them will you say will remains evergreen in your memory?
Without doubt, it has to be the goal I scored against Canada at the 2011 World Cup in Germany. Incidentally it was my only goal scored in a world Cup and it was enough to guarantee victory over Canada. There was also this game I scored four goals against Cameroun, I cannot forget those goals easily.
You have won several team and personal awards playing for club and country, which of them do you hold so dearly?
I think the Africa Women Championship in South Africa in which I scored 11 goals to emerge as the tournament’s top scorer and best player, remains my best and I hold it very dear in my heart.
As a legend of women’s soccer in Nigeria, what can you say of it’s state of development?
I want to believe it is growing, because we now have a premier league in the country and I gather the league is being shown on television now. We have also seen the emergence of good players like Asisat Oshoala, Francesca Ordega and Ugo Njoku amongst others from the league. There is still room for improvement.
Do you see Asisat Oshoala as your replacement? Can she be the greatest woman player in the country?
Asisat is good and she could be the greatest if she is focused, disciplined, committed and above all prayerful. I see her doing better than me, already being African Footballer Of The Year at 20 is one and Best Youth Footballer in the world is another. She needs to be encouraged and guided well, so that she doesn’t go off the track.
When are you going to walk down the aisle with your partner?
That is my personal life. When the time comes I will let you know, I will definitely get married one day.
Are you romantic? Do you have suitors?
Hahahahaa. Ask other questions, I don’t want to answer those ones. I am a woman.
What is your take on Lesbianism in women’s teams?
I am out of that and I don’t want to comment on that.
Which team do you dread most at the World Cup?
I love USA’s style of play but I also dread them because of what they can do. However, I think they fear us too, because they know we can spring surprises. We shall face each other in Canada with mutual respect.
Your preparation for the World Cup, is it the best?
Well, it is okay but I think we still have a lot to do to be ready.
Thank you for your time.