Nigeria most capped female Olympian and Table Tennis player, Funke Oshonaike in this exclusive interview with The Sunsports on Saturday, revealed the secret of her success, her humble beginning, how and where she met the love of her life, words on her tremendous record, reason behind her sexy look despite clocking 43, how she was sexually abused, her bitter experience and lots more.
Can you tell us about your beginning?
I have a humble beginning. I grew up in a street called Akeju in Shomolu, Lagos. It was there I started playing tennis with my friends and younger ones. I took it up to the next level by practicing it inside a soak away pit and I became the area champion. Now here I am, all I have achieved through Table Tennis. Who knows what I would have become without this game? I started representing Nigeria at age 10, but I give all glory to God Almighty.
You are the most capped female Olympian in Nigeria, what’s the secret behind this?
Hard work remains the secret of any success. If I tell you how I started, you will pity me. I am not surprised being the most capped Nigeria Olympian. I remember when I made my Olympics debut at the Atlanta 96 Olympic Games; I knew I would go a long way. I actually started earlier and my dad has been supportive. In a nutshell, my dad remains the secret of all my achievement.
We understand you are not planning to quit intentional tennis despite your age. Don’t you think it’s high time you gave the upcoming ones a chance?
You see, my philosophy about life is, you must beat the best if you want to be the best. Yes I’m 43 years old, but I can proudly say it that no Nigeria tennis player can defeat me hands down. Why must people keep repeating the word retirement when I still see myself as the best in the country? Let me make this clear, once the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation observes anyone far better than me, then I will drop the bat for such champion.
You are 43 years of age, and you still look young, active and sexy, how have you been coping with male admirers?
I do welcome my male admirers. In life, every one loves a good thing. I feel happy seeing them coming to me, it tells the work of God in my life. Let me tell you, I am a mother of three and I am proud to say I have more toasters than single ladies out there. I realise men love hooking up with a successful and hard working lady. No man wants to be with a lazy bitch that enjoys being idle. Till now, top sports administrators in Nigeria still ask me out despite the fact that am married with kids. But I thank God, I have never fallen victim or cheat on my husband.
You and Super Eagles’ captain, John Obi Mikel were named flag carriers and captain of Team Nigeria at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Did you enjoy your days with the former Chelsea star and host of other footballers?
Yes, why not? He is cool and mature. I am not a football fan and I have never dated any player. We all went there to make the country proud. The footballers were all nice. They see me as their mother while in camp. Some of them stares at me with a lot of surprise after noticing my age and young body. As a Lagos girl, I got to be sharp and I made them realise am their mama (laugh).
Where did you meet your husband?
I met my husband in a shopping mall in Germany. The young man never knew who I was. He is a Nigerian, but based in Germany. He helped me out in the mall and before I knew it, he has started chasing me here and there with the aim of winning my heart. He actually did after a long stress. You know, no one wants to look cheap. I developed feelings for him based on how he rallied round to make sure am comfortable inside the mall. It was there we exchanged contacts and before you knew it, love and affection drew us closer and here we are with three kids.
Despite your sexy look, hope your husband is not the jealous type?
Oh not at all. I can proudly say I married the best man. He is too understanding and caring. As a lady, all we want is a man that shows care. He supports me with everything he has. Aside that, he’s not the jealous type. He overlooks my shortcomings. He’s just too mature for me and I also do all things that will make him happy. Either I like it or not, he remains one of the secrets behind my success. He handles me with free hands and I have also vowed not to disappoint him.
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Sometime ago, you revealed via Facebook post, about how you lost your fiancé three month to your wedding, can you shed more light on that?
Yes! It’s true. I lost my fiancé three months before my wedding. The sad incident almost made me dump Nigeria. Robbers killed him when he visited Nigeria for a holiday. I mourned him for two years before I decided to move on with a new guy. But lets forget about that. That’s an issue I don’t love to remember.
Was he your first love?
No! Not at all. I once dated a guy back then. He is 10 years older than me. I loved him so much, but he took advantage of that. He maltreated me and even beat me up. Then I was a student at the University of Lagos. I always go to class with a swollen face before God wiped away my tears. I see that as part of the challenges ladies face in their earlier stage of life. I also think all that happen to me because am soft hearted.
Back to sports, despite being a six time Olympian, do you still dream of representing Nigeria in the next Olympics in Tokyo 2020?
Why not? I am currently eyeing my seventh Olympics outing. Like I said earlier, I am not ready to drop the tennis bat for any one until am defeated. I’m sure by then I would have clocked 45. There is this thing I realise about myself, the more I grow older the more experienced I become. I don’t care about what people say. I know some are saying I am a selfish type, but I challenge them to look for a better Nigerian female tennis player like me, then I will drop my bat.
Lastly, what are you giving back to your teeming fans across the globe?
I have been giving out a lot of things to support tennis in Nigeria. I’ve been spending my money to represent Nigeria lately and I can’t remember the last time I was paid any allowance or the last time I was rewarded for winning for my country. I’m very hurt about a lot of things that’s happening in sports in Nigeria, but because of the love I have for my country, I’m still trying my best. Aside that. I do organise tennis competition every year. I have a foundation known as the Oshonaike Foundation. Our aim is to produce more tennis talents and I am saying this boldly that this is just the beginning of great things fans should expect from me.