Vastly experienced Super Falcons defender, Onome Ebi is not in a hurry to tie the knots like every other young lady is desperate to especially when it is obvious that age is not on her side. At 37, Onome is still single but refuses to bulge under pressures from reactions the society has put on her status.
In this revealing interview with The Sun Sports on Saturday, Onome gives reasons why she is not perturbed. She also revealed the secret behind her success, why she is yet to retire from international football despite featuring in five FIFA World Cups.
Despite making her debut in 2003 as part of Nigeria’s team that consisted of national heroins Perpetua Nkwocha, Precious Dede and Mercy Akide; Onome who entered record book as one of the most capped female footballer at the 2019 FIFA Women World Cup in France, opened up on why the female national team performed below expectation at the tournament.
The Evergreen player who has played 14 FIFA World Cup matches to beat compatriot and former Falcons’ captain Florence Omagbemi (13 games) and why she is yet to hang her boots.
Having emerged as one of the most capped female footballers in the world, what has been the secret behind your success?
No secret. All I do is to remain fit. You know football is a game of fitness and I realise the more I play, the more I get fit. Although age is not on my side but at the same time, I believe my experience is also needed for the upliftment of the team. Aside that, as a footballer, one have to be ready for big games because it fetches a player more recognition. So, all I have to say is hard work remains the key to success.
Five World Cup, four AWCON titles and you are still playing, when should the fans be expecting your retirement?
I’m still active as I said earlier. As for now, I don’t see myself stepping aside. The fact that am 37 has nothing to do with my fitness. Yes, I have won several laurels for the national team and I don’t think it’s time I step aside as the leader of the team. When I am tired, I will let the world know. But as for now, I am still fit to play.
Why did you pick football as a career ahead of other things women do?
My parent did not actually want me to play football. My passion for the round leather game started while I was a kid and I realised all I needed do was to prove my parent wrong so as to allow me do what I love doing. I combined playing football with my education with the aim of having a good result. After all these, my parent had no choice than to support my passion for football.
Sadly, the Falcons won’t be at the Olympic, how do you feel?
I feel bad because we have been looking forward to qualifying for the tournament since the past two editions. Although we had a solid preparation, but unfortunately it turned out the way it did. Although, I was not available during the qualification series duo to the fact that only six over aged players are eligible to participate in the qualification. It’s not only in women category we have this rule, same occurs to the male category. But I can assure you, we will do better by grabbing other qualification ticket to compensate our fans.
As the most experienced player in the Falcons, do you think your absence hindered the team performances during the qualification series?
No. I don’t think so. There are lots of players in the team who can play my role as a defender. Though, my presence may have inspired them to do more, but I don’t think my absence affected their get performances. What if I hang my boots today, won’t the team excel?
How do you cope with younger players in the national team?
I’m a very free person who loves to see younger ones around me. I also started from somewhere. I could remember I was one of the youngest Nigerian players at the 2003 FIFA Women World Cup. I was given a warm welcome from the veterans I met in the team. So I think it’s my turn to do same to the upcoming ones. I have always served as a mother and sister to them whenever we’re in camp. I never distanced myself from them and am glad they also feel free to roll with me. I love to advise them on the next step to take in life and am glad they also acknowledge my efforts.
What’s your comment on the change of coaches in the Super Falcons?
I can’t say much on that. The coach has been with the players for some time and he knows what he wants. He left when he felt it time to leave. Although, changing of the coach will also hindered the team’s performances but I believe the resignation of the previous coach also did more harm to the team. Why should a coach who has been tutoring the team for a very long time resign at such a crucial moment when he did?
Having quit the European league for the Chinese League, how is life in China?
China is super. Everything over there excites me. As we speak, I am about signing a new contract with my club Henan Huishang. I’m really enjoying life over there and the equal pay idea which will see female and male footballers receiving same amount also makes me fall in love with the league. The idea shows that the league is up to standard and I am sure it will really help.
How do you handle admirers and why are you still single at 37?
That sounds funny (laughs), I am the type of person who love to stick with what I want. It’s not as if am declining men but the issue is I haven’t seen the kind of person that I want. Although ladies can’t find a perfect person these days, we just get to live with the available one who suits us. But as for me, I don’t think I have come across the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.
Despite being single at 37, you still look beautiful and happy, what’s the secret?
I think the secret remains rest of mind. I don’t think about what people say. All I do is to play with kids and others close one. I hear people say at my age, am still single, but I don’t care because of the peace of mind I want to sustain. I give thanks to God, even though am single at 37; I still look good and fresh than some young ones on the streets.