Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bringing The Star Closer to The Fans-Perpetua Nkwocha

Over the years, Africa has produced talented female soccer players one of whom is 35 year old Nigerian international, Perpetua Nkwocha,the 3-time African Best Female Player currently plying her trade with Swedish Damallsvenskan side Sunnana SK. I was privileged to be granted an interview by the soft spoken player,one who has done so much for her country and for women's soccer on the continent of Africa. This is the maiden installment of interviews I have chosen to call Bringing the Star Closer to the Fans.

WSA :Some say they have been playing soccer since they took their first step,others say,they fell in love with soccer by accident.Tell me how it all begun for you as a soccer player ?

PN:As a soccer player, it might not be totally easy for me to state clearly how it all began for me. However, I can say that as long as I can remember, I have always loved to do nothing else that play soccer. From my early school years that is as early as nursery school year, I have always wanted to be on the field of play and play for a whole day rather stay in class and learn. So if I say that I was born with football flowing in my vein, that will not be far from the truth. I have played soccer all my life and that also may mean from my first step.

Unlike now, it was not always easy for girls to just come out and play as there was serious discouragement at the time. Football was always regarded as an affair reserved for boys who want to play truant. So it was not always easy going out of the house to play. This meant that I had to find opportunities and stories to tell my parent in other to find time as I was always restless and sad unless I found playing time. So I was born with soccer flowing in my blood and must have started kicking it with my first step.

WSA :You have been playing this game for so long,what would you say is your motivation ?
 PN:Like I said before, I love this game. I have an unquenchable passion for the game. I can hardly imagine what else I can be doing really. So first and foremost the love and passion I have for this game, the joy and happiness I derive from playing has not reduced, these can be said to be my primary motivation so there is a natural motivation for the game flowing in my whole system and that has kept me going.

WSA : What other profession would you have found yourself in had you not been a soccer player ?PN : This is a very difficult question really. I can hardly imagine what else I would have tried my hands on. As I stated at the beginning, I never found joy in any thing than going out to the pitch to play soccer. This was all I ever wanted. During my school days, I would hide my school bag some where and go out in search of where I can find people playing football. So it has always been soccer, soccer, soccer all the way. That said, if I was not a soccer player, I probably would have gone into any other sport. But I am happy I am a soccer player so as to be spared what would have been the most difficult choice of my life.

WSA :Looking at the current state of women's soccer on the continent of Africa,would you say the game is improving or deteriorating ?
PN :Women's football in Africa has come a long way. It can be said to have made progress when you look at it from the part of awareness, involvement, participation and over all, interest it has generated. On the other hand, however, when you look at it in the area of administration, organisation, sponsorship and funding, one will note with deep sadness that it has not made any progress. These aspects have left a lot to be desired. Also in the area of talent hunt, the continent has not made that desired progress. All that having been said however, I can not say the game has deteriorated. It can be said that the game has not made serious progress in the areas I have mentioned. But overall, there are signs of great things to come for the African Female soccer.

WSA : Having to travel all over the world as a player,how many languages do you speak ?
PN : I know this question stemmed from the fact that I have played in many countries in different parts of the world. Well, I am not really very good with languages as a matter of fact. So basically in addition to my native language I can say I speak two other languages,namely English and Swedish.

WSA :You are a role model for young girls who would like to, or have chosen to play soccer,what advice would you give them ?
PN : I should say to any young girl that want to play this game to be disciplined, determined, dedicated, hard working and committed. You may abound in talent, that alone does not guarantee success in the game. You must shun all the negatives that destroy talent. You must be focused and you must have a sense of direction. You must be willing to adapt and learn. You must show respect for constituted authority and to your seniors both in the game and all aspects of life in general. If you can put all these together and with some sort of talent and interest, you have a very bright chance.

WSA :What do you do to relax before a big game ?
PN :I usually look forward to games to be honest. How ever, I ensure I get a good rest and a good sleep the night before. Depending on the time for the game I take my meal bearing the game in mind. Above all, I go into each game with a win in mind so I give myself that self confidence that any and every game is winable. With that in mind I go into each game very ready and prepared to give my 150%. So there is really no special preparation for games for me.

WSA :Are you superstitious and what's your superstition if any ?
PN :No I am not superstitious. Not at all.

WSA : As African champions, a lot will be expected from you considering the fact that Nigeria is a giant in African women's soccer and also for you being the reigning Best Female Player on the continent.What are your expectations at the world cup in Germany in June,2011 ?
PN : Yes. African Champions, Nigeria, the giant of Africa in women's soccer of course the big thing of being African Female Footballer of the Year. These are beautiful titles and accolades if you ask me and I am very proud of our achievements both as Nigerians and as soccer players and as an individual. Having said all that, I want to state that we are going to the World cup just like any other team, to participate, play to our optimum in order to win it. We are not bothered by any of all these titles, achievements or accolades. Those are in the past now. We are going out there as relaxed and confident as ever. We are not under any pressure and will not put ourselves under any pressure trying to heap any of these things on our shoulders. We are going out there to play and win the competition just like any other team. Of course we know we can win it other wise why should we go to the world cup. We are that confident. We know that if we play as well as we know we can, then we can win the world cup and that is what we are going out there to do.

WSA :Which young player do you see much of yourself in as a player ?
PN :Nigeria is over flowing with talents. We have several millions of young players who are coming up on daily basis and there are many outstanding ones as well. However, it is pretty difficult for me to point out one person as one who is like me. They all have their special qualities as individuals just like me.

WSA : If there was one thing you would want to change in women's soccer what would it be ?
PN : Obviously I will touch on the lack of intercontinental competitions on the league level in Africa. I will change that in order to give effect to the local leagues and create stronger competition and desire for the players.

WSA : Playing for your country at the world cup is a huge achievement as a player.Looking at the great players from other countries, can you name at least 5 players you would love to have on your team if you were a coach 
PN : Female soccer has grown in leaps and bounds over the years and with it also are the emergence of many fantastic players. Infact, it is common knowledge that some players are so good that some male clubs would want to sign them to play for their clubs.(chuckles) Some one like Milene Domingues, former wife of the legendary Brazilian Ronaldo for example, whose signature was allegedly chased around by Athletico Madrid who finally signed her in 2002 for a record fee of two hundred thousand pounds. She holds the women's world juggling record with 9 hours and 55,187 touches. I will also like to have Hann Ljungberg of Sweden in my team. Her record in the game is very enviable. The next person is FIFA's women player of the century in the person of Sun Wen of China. Then I will like to have Michelle Akers of the USA. Last but not the least is Cristiane Rozeira de Souza Silva of Brazil. She is a forward of outstanding qualities. Her track record in the game is self explanatory. If I add the above listed to the array of talents I already have in my team, then playing at the final of a tournament like the world cup in Germany 2011 will be guaranteed.That will be a dream team for me if i were a coach. .

WSA :Nigeria has been grouped with France,Germany and Canada would you consider your group the toughest 
PN :Our group is tough. Yes very tough but these statistics count for nothing in today's football if you ask me. There are no big teams and no small teams any more in world soccer. Please ask France when they were put to the sword by Senegal. Ordinarily pundits had given it to France to probably spell Senegal with goals, but we all saw what happened. This game is about who plays best on the day. How you play on the day and how the officiating goes and then a bit of luck as well. Players all over the world play in different leagues together these days and the gaps have been closed considerably and any thing, and I mean any thing can happen on the field on play that could shock pundits.

WSA :What do you see yourself doing when your playing days are over ?
PN : I have so much love and passion for the game. This means that I will want to remain in the game in some capacity so as to discover and support other up and coming talents. I am not quite decided yet since I am totally committed to my game and how to still make it even better and achieve a lot more. All the same, I will remain in the game in some capacity but I will surely let you know when I am sure.

WSA :If you could have dinner with one celebrity who would it be 
PN :(Smiles)Well there are loads of celebrities I would really love to hung out with or have dinner with. There are so many people who have been outstanding in their chosen careers that one would really be privileged to have to dine with, however I am a soccer player and as a soccer player I have so many role models in the game who I regard as my prime celebrities and I will regard myself really very privileged if I have the opportunity to dine with any of them. In this light therefore I will be very delighted if I dine with Lionel Messi of Argentina and Barcelona. He is a wonderful player who is really the best among equals.

WSA: What is the happiest and saddest day of your life as a soccer player ?
PN : (laughs) As you may know, football is an emotional sport which takes you to the highest and lowest of the emotional ladder. It is really difficult to say which moment is my happiest or saddest because I have had so many moments in my career. I have won many cups with my clubs, my country and even individual laurels. They are all up there. I have also had such moments with both club and country where we had lost matches that really touched me and made me feel so low. I can hardly mention individual moments really.

WSA : In conclusion,What message do you have for your fans ?
PN : To my teeming fans, who are wonderful people, I Thank you so much for your support. You have made it possible for me to get to where I am today in this wonderful game. I would not have made it but for your support. I promise to continue to make you proud by doing my best each time and to give back in what ever way i can. I know you are there and I am here because of you and for you. Together we shall continue to conquer. Thank you so much.

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