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SPORT: Falcons not ready to give up WAFCON title – NWFL champion, Monday

SPORT: Falcons not ready to give up WAFCON title – NWFL champion, Monday

Publish date: 2022-07-04 05:20:09 | Author: Tana Aiyejina | Source: punchng.com

Coming off an imperious season where her goals fired Bayelsa Queens to the NWFL title, forward Monday Gift is hoping to transfer club form to country as the Super Falcons begin their WAFCON title defence in Morocco. In this interview with ’TANA AIYEJINA, she insists the Falcons would retain their title

You scored 10 goals in five Super Six games and 13 in total for the season, helping Bayelsa Queens win the 2022 NWFL crown. How would you describe your season?

I played for my parent club FC Robo during the regular season. It was a pleasant season, a good and motivating one. And also throughout the season, I learnt a lot of lessons. Overall, I’ll say my season was blessed. It was a great honour playing for Bayelsa Queens (on loan) at the Super Six. I just felt that I should give my best because there is something in me that made them to call for me. I wanted to show that they calling for me was not a mistake. And I’m happy we were able to win the league. It was a team effort.

Fans feel you should be playing in Europe by now. How soon are you looking to playing abroad?

Going abroad is a dream that I always want to come true as soon as possible. So, I’m just waiting for the right time and the right club to locate me. I hope the opportunity comes soon.

How are you looking forward to the ongoing 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament?

I know if I’m given that opportunity, I will not let it just slide off. I’ll make good use of it in representing my country.

Do you think the Falcons can retain their title?

Yes, definitely we will. I believe in it because we have great coaches, great technical crew, devoted players, good leaders and good team members. I’m very sure we will win because I know what it is like to have won it before and still want to win it again. Like they say, we are the giants of African and we are not ready to give that up.

South Africa beat Falcons in Lagos last year and we play them in the opening game on Monday (today). Are you gunning for revenge?

At first when I saw the draw, I said, ‘wow South Africa again?’ I played the second half of that match against South Africa at the Aisha Buhari Cup and I saw my impact and the reaction of my teammates when we came in for the second half. I felt if we had started that way, it wouldn’t have ended that way. With full confidence, I know there is something that is going to be different when we play South Africa at the WAFCON.

Can you recall your first call-up to the Super Falcons?

It was in 2018, against Ivory Coast, during the qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics. I played both legs.

What was it like putting on the Nigerian jersey? Were you scared?

I wasn’t scared. I already represented Nigeria in 2018 at the U-20 Women’s World Cup in France and my coach then Christopher Danjuma got the call-up to coach the Falcons and he invited me. It wasn’t difficult for me to blend, so there was no pressure.

What did it feel like missing out of the Olympics after the defeat to the Ivoirians?

It felt really bad. The first time I was called up, I was like if we actually qualify for the Olympic Games, it will be my first time with the team and we qualified. But it didn’t happen that way and it really weighed me down. I wasn’t discouraged though, because I knew I was just getting started.

Can you remember your first goal for the Falcons?

Yes, it was in Turkey, earlier this year at a friendly tournament against Equatorial Guinea. I was expecting the goal. All the while on the bench, I watched the senior players, so I waited for my opportunity and when I got it, I got the goal. It was something I knew I could do and I did it.

What is your biggest challenge as a footballer?

It’s playing with injury. I don’t like staying on the bench and I don’t like staying away from football. So, sometimes when I’m injured, I just have to force myself to play. When playing with injury and you are not able to give your best, it feels so bad. I want to do my best but injury will not just allow me sometimes.

Do you think female footballers are treated same way like their male counterparts?

That’s a big no and I don’t think that is going to ever happen in Nigeria. I don’t think they are going to value us the way they value the guys.

Why do you think so?

I feel the gap is just too much. If it has been half treatment that was given to the girls, we will feel that something might change, but the gap is just too much. Even if something is going to change, it is just going to be a little.

There is this impression that women’s football is not money-spinning. Is it true?

I feel really bad about it but truth be told, that is what is going on around the world. Growing up, that was what I heard, that there is no money and no future in women’s football. So, nobody is really interested in investing in women footballers. It feels really bad, like someone seeing me with what I have and my potential, and still not believing in my dreams and believing nothing good will come out of it, so it feels really bad.

What was your early beginning like as a footballer?

My early beginning wasn’t easy and my parents never wanted me to play football. When I come in after a game, they beat me. But along the line, they had to just give in to my dreams. I think they saw the potential in me. They saw a greater future in me, so they just let me play football.

When did the breakthrough come?

I got the breakthrough when I was fully released by my parents, played and represented Lagos State at the Eko 2012 National Sports Festival.

What was it like playing for and representing Lagos?

Lagos won and I was also the highest goal scorer. At first, I was scared because that was my first time playing among girls, but people were around me and the coach helped me. I got that confidence back and I just had to do what I did and what I knew how to do.

Do you hope to combine education with football at some point?

I’m already schooling and playing football. I’m about to round off my OND programme at Yaba College of Technology. I’m studying Business administration.

So, when you finish from football, what do you hope to do?

I love fashion. I would like to open my own fashion company and maybe I will become an agent one day.

Why not coaching?

No. I don’t think I can bear the pressure.

Who is your role model?

My role model is Asisat Oshoala. I love the progress she is making in her career, her successful life and everything she is going through. She inspires me a lot.

What is your advice to girls who want to play football?

They have to remain focused. As long as they know what they want, they should just remain focused. Never look at the bad things life throws at you. Pick up the stones and make your own mountain and climb to the top. Just remain focused because there are better things ahead.

What are your best and worst moments?

My best moment was when I captained Nigeria U-20 in Morocco at the 2019 African Games and we won the competition. Hopefully, we will come out second time lucky in Morocco by winning the WAFCON.

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