Nigeria can win World Cup if women are treated fairly, says Onome Ebi
Onome Ebi has been a mainstay in the Super Falcons for over a decade. The defender has been part of the successes and failures of the team within and outside Africa since she made her debut in the FIFA World Cup in 2003. Fielding questions from SAMUEL IFETOYE, Ebi, who recently signed for Temple Management Company to manage her career, spoke on her career progression plans, the injury she sustained at last year’s African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) and other issues in Nigerian football.
Are you now fully recovered from the injury you had in Cameroun?
For now, I will give myself a 70 per cent fitness level by His grace. The doctor gave me a six-month recovery period after a successful surgery in Abuja, which is due for May or June and by then I should have recovered fully. But while recuperating, I did not relax, since it was my arms, but my legs and every other part of my body were fully fit and working.
Have we seen the last of Ebi in national colours?
No, I am still very much around. I saw people reacting to my posts on the social media, asking me if I had retired. My answer is I am not retiring yet. I am still much in the game. For now, I am trying to get myself back to fitness and strengthen my hand. I have been visiting schools, trying to inspire children, who may want to play football. I have been to four schools now and hopefully I should be back to the game I love passionately.
When the new season’s transfer opens, I hope to secure a club through my representative, the Temple Management Company, because they are really working hard towards that. I do not want to go to a club where I will go today, then move tomorrow. Moving from one club to another within a short period of time is not an ideal thing. I have been made to understand that I need to move to a club that I love. My targets are United States, China, especially an English speaking country and I pray that it materialises.
There were stories about the bad treatment the authorities meted to the Super Falcons after the Nations Cup, which you won. Have they settled all your allowances?
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has paid every kobo owed us at the AWCON. But what I did not like was the way we were treated after winning the cup. Though it has always been like that and we have been fighting for a change from the usual way. But I believe that with the coming of the new Independent Chairperson of the Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL), Aisha Falode, on board of the NFF, change seems imminent to our plight.
I hear the new board of the NWFL is working hard to bring changes to female football in Nigeria. And I believe it will certainly touch us too at national team because the Super Falcons is the women team representing Nigeria and I believe what happened at the last Nations Cup would definitely not repeat itself again. I am already looking forward to that. I have met the new chairperson once but we have not been able to discuss anything yet.
Do you support the argument that the men and women national teams should be treated equally in terms of bonuses and other entitlements?
Be it female or male football, I do not see any reason why the female players should be treated differently from their male counterparts. But due to the mentality of humans, they classify us, saying that football is for men and not for women. I want to say here that things really have to change. For there to be fairness, at least what the male national team is getting should be closer to what we also get. If they are given $100, we should be getting something between $70 and $80, which I think is fair enough. I want to plead to the NFF, even to Nigerians to support this course. We really need to get something close to the men because It is only when that is done that we can feel recognised.
Even after winning the Nations Cup in Cameroun, the way we were welcomed was nothing to write home about. If only they could just carry us along, we are not asking for parity with our male counterparts… but at least let it be closer so that we too may feel loved. Currently, we see Super Falcons as every other team, like the local teams. We do not feel like the name Super Falcons that was given to us after achieving so much success at the African level. I am pleading that they should carry us along like our male counterparts. The gap between us is just too much. I believe if the gap would be bridged, winning the World Cup would be a possibility. I believe strongly that it is achievable.