How Asisat Oshoala started at 7 years old, and the journey that led to the African Player of the Year

Asisat Oshoala’s journey to soccer stardom started when she was 7 years old. As her mother was driving the children home from church, Oshoala’s grandmother asked the children to follow her to the store.

But when her grandmother, Janet Ann, saw Oshoala, her jaw dropped. “One of us, you’re not in it. You are not in the story,” Janet told her. “This is your life now.”

Oshoala’s grandmother would be proven right two years later when both she and the little girl were 13. This time her grandmother was right. The little girl had the talent to earn a spot on her school’s soccer team. After three solid years of practicing, Asisat debuted that fall.

With her grandmother by her side, Oshoala watched as her classmate was signed to two junior teams before she joined her own team at 14. Over the next two years, she would score a whopping 45 goals in 42 games for Rancho Verde High School’s Riverside County Football Academy, earning the National Federation’s 20-under girls soccer player of the year award in 2013.

Then she signed with Arsenal at 16.

Two years later she’d become the youngest female African player ever to play for the U.S. Women’s National Team at 19. She eventually moved over to Galatasaray in Turkey and quickly became the first female player ever to play in three of the club’s competitions in the same season. She also earned the first African Women’s Professional Soccer Rookie of the Year award.

But in February 2016, not long after her move to the more established club in Istanbul, Oshoala ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament and tore the patellar tendon in her left knee while on the pitch. Oshoala was eventually forced to sit out the entire 2016-17 season.

Since her return, Oshoala has been linked to most of the top clubs in Europe and the U.S. She is said to be in contention for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, which will kick off on Saturday in Abu Dhabi. Her return home to Nigeria was a particularly big one, as the continent’s most populous country celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence.

Not only that, but her aunt, sister and parents traveled to Abu Dhabi to honor Oshoala after the victory in her home state of Kogi.

And if there is any doubt that Oshoala is special, her teammates on the Super Falcons have shared this insight.

“I hope that young girls can see, ‘If Asisat could become a goal-scorer, why can’t I become one?’” defender Zinzan Mohammed wrote on Instagram after Oshoala scored against Algeria last month.

With Oshoala looking for a fourth Olympic team, fans here are sure to see the next chapter in her story.

Asisat Oshoala became the world’s most capped female African soccer player during Nigeria’s victory against South Africa in a Confederations Cup semi-final in June 2018. Oshoala’s 400th appearance for Nigeria this summer tied together the most appearances by any African woman.

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