Asisat Oshoala was already a star by the time she won the Golden Boot and the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria in 2016. But her career almost took a dramatic turn away from home three years earlier when the striker was 12 and an orphaned house-wife in her native Lagos.
Ossoala never stopped believing, even when a death was diagnosed, that if she was able to provide for her eldest child she would ultimately take him away. “There was a time when I was being looked after by my grandmother, she lost her husband, and I had to give my eldest child, Musa, to her as a boy. It was very difficult. She was a very stern woman, but with me. If I took my son and raised him myself I would have been mad at her, so I had to let her have him. But to take him away, and to be very strict with her, was not a decision I really took because she is my grandmother. I can look into her eyes and know she is capable of giving you everything you need. My little restlessness was that if she loses my son, she will lose her mind and she won’t be able to look after me.
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“She was very tough with me. It was an experience I will remember for life. At the end of the day, she was strong, and she used to make me and Musa a condition, which is that I will always be around if I look after him. She told me that if I make her happy, she will take care of me. And I did what I had to do. Of course, she could see the strength I brought to her, and that is something I will never forget. I took her word.
“Without my grandmother, I don’t know where I would be. She was very strong. She made me believe that I could never give up. And that drive she brought is still there. I can tell you that she is still very important in my life. If it wasn’t for her, I would not be where I am today. She has raised me like a son and made sure she was always by my side, supporting me and encouraging me. I want to thank her. Without her I wouldn’t be where I am today.”