One of the first set of superstars to bring glory and honor to Nigeria in female football has looked back at her career and her accomplishments in the game.
Ex-Nigerian international Ngozi Eucharia Uche has explained how her career exploits helped boost female football in the country.
While the men’s version of the continent’s premier football tournament – the Africa Cup of Nations – had enjoyed patronage since its beginning in 1957, the female version – the AWCON – was not launched until 1991.
Nigeria was one of the countries to present a national female team – the Super Falcons – at the first edition of that competition, which also served as the qualifiers to the Women’s World Cup in China later that year.
Nigeria’s first international match was against Ghana, with Uche claiming a hat-trick as the Falcons thrashed their rivals 5-1 at the National Stadium, Lagos.
It remains a landmark moment as it placed Uche in the record books as the female star to score Nigeria’s first-ever international goal and the country’s first hat-trick in women’s football.
The Super Falcons made it to the finals, where they crushed Cameroon 6-0 on aggregate to qualify for the FIFA World Cup three years before the Super Eagles debuted at the Mundial.
Uche is convinced that the feat boosted the female game’s popularity in Nigeria when it could have been met with disapproval.
“I was a very great player in my days, and from the beginning with the Super Falcons, the team was built around me,” the former Ifeoma Babes forward told CAFOnline.com.
“I have eyes for scoring goals and it is something to be proud of for scoring the historic first international goal for the Super Falcons; I was so happy because I finally scored a hat trick in that exact match against Ghana in Lagos almost 30 years ago now.
“That victory against Ghana both in Lagos and Accra including our qualification for the first edition of the FIFA World Cup in China (even before the Super Eagles qualified for their first FIFA World Cup at USA 94) made people discover the fact that whatever men can do, women can do better.”
Uche switched playing for coaching after retirement. In November 2010, the former forward guided the Super Falcons to lift the African Women’s Cup of Nations, following the team’s 4-2 thrashing of Equatorial Guinea in the final in South Africa.
She thus became the first woman to win the reputable trophy as a player and a coach.