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Former Super Falcons’ goalkeeper, Ayegba, now drives the 185

By Guardian Nigeria
09 December 2021   |   2:32 am
There is national shortage of bus drivers that is forcing people into cars and clogging up the roads, the industry warns, reports standard.co.uk. Help to ease this crisis comes from an unlikely source...

Rachael Aladi Ayegba

There is national shortage of bus drivers that is forcing people into cars and clogging up the roads, the industry warns, reports standard.co.uk. Help to ease this crisis comes from an unlikely source: the former goalkeeper of the Nigerian national football team.

Rachael Aladi Ayegba played in the 2007 Women’s World Cup, the 2006 and 2008 African Women’s Championships and had an 11-year stint as a pro in Finland, winning the league title in 2013 with PK-35 Vantaa.

Now she drives the number 185 between Lewisham and Victoria. She is in the middle of a year’s training. Ayegba, 35, says she had visited London for years on holiday and always admired the double decker buses. She moved here three years ago.

She reckons driving a bus and playing in goal have a lot in common. It’s about safety first, about not making a mistake. The bus driving is harder.

“When you are trying to save the ball, you need safe hands. But there are ten others on your side,” she said. “When you drive a bus, you are on your own.”

In goal, the whole game is in front of you. Driving a bus, at least half the things that could go wrong are behind you or otherwise out of vision.

“Mentally you have to be 100% ready, if you are a goalkeeper the defenders can help you. You can’t make any mistakes driving a bus.”

She works for Go-Ahead, the bus and train giant that operates about a fifth of the capital’s buses on behalf of TfL.

Go-Ahead’s apprenticeship programme lasts 53 weeks, a mix of classroom work and being on the road.

The Confederation for Passenger Transport reckons there is a shortage of more than 6500 bus and coach drivers nationwide.

Go Ahead is doing its bit — it takes on 700 apprentices a year. Of those 68 per cent are BAME while 16 per cent are women, a figure the company says it is trying hard to increase.
Perhaps bus drivers just don’t get enough respect?

“They don’t. I think we just see a bus driver as a nobody,” says Ayegba. “I see them more like a pilot, if anything goes wrong, it’s on them. Now I’ve done the training, the people I respect most, after my family, are the drivers.”

Bus drivers pay starts at £26,000 and rises to more than £31,000. That’s a far cry from playing for Nigeria’s Super Falcons in the World Cup, but Ayegba doesn’t regret a thing.

Ayegba, whose favourite player is Cristiano Ronaldo, doesn’t play football anymore, though she has coaching licenses. “I am old. You have to know when to stop,” she says.