#NETIcons: 5 Iconic Women In Nigerian Sports Every Nigerian Should Know About

Posted on December 03 2019 , at 05:03 pm
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  • The women on this list did incredible things in times when they were underdogs and they did those things with fewer resources and less acclaim for their troubles. That’s why they are special.

You’ve heard about the male footballers and athletes. You’ve heard of whatever records they’ve broken and how successful they are in whatever league or foreign competition they are playing in. What you don’t hear about are the women who are doing, or have done incredible things in their sport. Well, that is what we are here for – to tell the stories of those women and their contributions to our world. 

The women on this list did incredible things in times when they were underdogs and they did those things with fewer resources and less acclaim for their troubles. That’s why they are special. Check them out:

  • Mary Onyali-Omagbemi: This absolute legend of a woman is the first Nigerian to compete at five consecutive Olympics during her run from 1988 – 2004. She has two Olympic bronze medals, 7 individual All Africa Games medals, one Commonwealth title and a couple of 4x100m gold medals at the All Africa Games to her name. Now 51 years old, she has served as the Special Adviser (Technical) to the Director General of the National Sports Commission and also on the consultation committee for a proposed sports university in Nigeria, according to Wikipedia. She was recently appointed as a Special Adviser to Nigerian Sports Minister, Sunday Dare. 

  • Chioma Ajunwa: Instead of dressing up this woman’s amazing accomplishments I’ll just list them – she was on the first “Falcons” team to play for Nigeria at the World Cup, she was the first Nigerian (and African) to win a track & field gold medal at the Summer Olympics and she remains the ONLY Nigerian athlete to have ever won a track & field gold medal. Yes, you read that right – Africa’s first track & field gold medal and Nigeria’s only Olympic gold medal belongs to a woman. I stan. She is currently an Assistant Commissioner of Police. 
PHILADELPHIA – SEPTEMBER 20: Forward Mercy Akide #10 of Nigeria advances the ball past defender In Sil Yun #2 and midfielder Hyang Ok Ri #19 of North Korea during the FIFA Women’s World Cup match at Lincoln Financial Field on September 20, 2003 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images)
  • Mercy Akide-Udoh: One of Nigeria’s greatest footballers, Mercy Akide was part of the Falcon’s team that made it to the quarter finals of the Women’s World Cup in 1999. For context, no senior Nigerian male team has made it that far. She was the first ever African Female Footballer of the Year and the first Nigerian woman to play football professionally in the US. Mercy, now 44 years old, has been named to the FIFA All-Star Selection three times and was an ex-member of the FIFA Football Committee. She is currently Head Coach of the Regent University Women’s Soccer team in the US and a FIFA Ambassador. How can you not stan?

  • Falilat Ogunkoya-Omotayo: One of Nigeria’s most prolific athletes, Falilat Ogunkoya was ranked best in the world in 1998 by the IAAF, the global governing body for athletics. Nobody ran a quarter mile like this woman. She won a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics competing in the 400m race and bagged a silver in the 4x400m relay at the same competition. In the African Championships, she won 4 Gold medals and 2 silver medals before her retirement in 2004. Her 49.10 time in the 400m event at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics still stands today as an African record and the twelfth fastest of all time. She was also the first Nigerian woman to land an international endorsement deal with Nike back in 1987 and she remained on-contract till 2004! She is currently the Chairperson of the South West Athletics Association (SWAA) and frequently organises grassroots athletic events through her foundation. A legend’s legend. 

  • Perpetua Nkwocha: This iconic woman has played in seven CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (and won five of them), four Women’s World Cups and three Olympics for Nigeria. In total, she made 99 appearance for Nigeria and scored 80 goals, a better average than basically every male player on the continent. She won African Women’s Player of the Year four times (2004, 2005, 2010 and 2011) and was top goalscorer at three CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (2004, 2006 and 2010). Perpetua has Swedish citizenship after playing in the country for over seven years and she is currently coach of Clemensnäs IF from Swedish Women’s Football Division 2 – the only Nigerian woman coaching a foreign club at the moment. No wonder she is Asisat Oshoala’s idol.

These women have achieved incredible, sometimes unbelievable things and while their achievements may not be talked about as much as that of their male counterparts, they aren’t any less glorious. I stan each and everyone of these legends, you should too.

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