31st October, 2012
For fans of four-time Female African Footballer of the Year, Perpetua Nkwocha, the ongoing African Women’s Championship, AWC, may be the last time they would see her make her dazzling runs on the flanks. Although, she will still mesmerise defenders, and score great goals for Nigeria, but Nkwocha has concluded plans to call it quits on the international football scene.
Nkwocha painted the African continent red with goals, which earned her the nickname ‘Yekini’ of female football. She is also a veteran when it comes to the AWC, and Nkwocha has every reason to hang her football playing boots after a glorious career that spanned over a decade.
Looks like they say is deceitful but for Nwkocha, she looks very youthful, yet Nigeria’s all-time female highest goal scorer will call time on her international career at the end of the biennial championship holding in Equatorial Guinea.
When Nkwocha took the goal scoring baton from her predecessor, Mercy Akide-Udoh, many thought the shoe was too big for her to wear, soon after she showed that she is up to the task as she has succeeded in scoring many goals for the female national team.
The striker has promised to give her teeming fans a farewell gift of scoring 15 goals at the ongoing AWC, having seen the back of the net 11 times in the last edition in South Africa.
Nkwocha did not only score goals for the national team, some of her teammates described her as a role model, whom they hope to emulate.
While news were being peddled around about lesbianism going on the camp of Falcons, known were tied to her, which clearly shows that she is a role model to younger players in the team.
The news of the Imo State-born Nkwocha calling it quits with her international playing career first came to light in June 2008, then, the BBC reported that the Sunnana SK of Sweden striker had announced her plans to retire in two years with the hope to continue to be involved in football as a coach.
However, Nkwocha’s plans to retire from the national team will no doubt touch a cord in the minds of her teeming Nigerian football fans, who like the dickensian Oliver Twist would have wished to see more of the former Pelican Stars of Calabar in national colours.
Going down memory lane, the football amazon had participated in three CAF Women’s Championship (2002, 2004, 2006), winning all three of them, prior to her participation at the ongoing edition in Equatorial Guinea.
At the 2004 edition, Nkwocha scored four goals in the final against Cameroon to help Nigeria win the title and at the same time named the best player of the tournament after scoring an unprecedented nine goals at the tourney.
Nkwocha was also at the 2003 and 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cups and the Olympic tournaments of 2000, 2004, and 2008 missing out of the 2012 edition after the Falcons were eliminated at the qualifying stage by the Lionesses of Cameroon.
The Falcons however on Monday avenged the loss when they handed the Cameroonians a 2-1 defeat at the ongoing tourney.
Nkwocha, in a recent interview revealed that her initial plan had been to quit international football at the London 2012 Olympics, but was denied the privilege due to their inability to feature at the Games.
“My initial plan was to bow out of international football at the Olympic Games in London, but we did not qualify. But I have chosen the African Women’s Championship in Equatorial Guinea as the last competition that I will play for the national team before I retire,” Nkwocha revealed.
Aside donning national colours, Nkwocha has also contributed her quota to the development of female football in Nigeria by establishing a female club side called Perpetua Nkwocha FC in her hometown, Ngwor Okpala in Imo State.
Nkwocha said: “I’m glad that God has made it possible for me to sponsor the club in the little way that I can. Just like I was encouraged when I was growing up, I am also trying to encourage the young ones in my village so that they can grow up to do Nigeria proud in the nearest future.”
The Super Falcons goal poacher noted that she intends to do her utmost to see that her home state has a women’s club in the national league.
“I’m already taking a coaching course in Sweden and I could work actively with a female club in Imo State. That would help us change the current situation in which girls from here have to go to Calabar or Port Harcourt before they can play in the league. Imagine, Imo State is my state, but I spent about seven years in Cross River State, playing for their club, Pelican Stars. I am really thinking about the need for Imo State to have its own female club and I believe that sports-loving people in the state will contribute to make the idea seethe light of day.”
Though football fans in the country will surely miss Nkwocha greatly, but they will no doubt take solace in the fact that the country has another player in the person of Desire Oparanozie, who will take over from Nkwocha as a reliable striker.