Super Falcons forward Francisca Ordega has played a key role as the Falcons reached the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup for the first time in 20 years. She took time off to talk about herself off the pitch in this interview with KELVIN EKERETE
The Tiv woman is generally viewed as having a big heart and is determined to survive the odds. Would you say this has helped in your career?
(Laughs) Of course, Benue women, not just Tivs, are strong-hearted people. I’ve met some guys that say they must marry a Benue girl because they’ve dated Benue women and know we are interesting people to be with. The feeling is different and how (Benue women) they take care of them. We are a strong people, we have good hearts, we are very supportive when it comes to relationships and friendships generally we are very supportive, loveable and hardworking so it helps me a lot. I watch a lot of women back home, they inspire me a lot, for example, my mom. She really showed me that being a woman doesn’t stop you from taking care of your responsibilities, so that helped me a lot, so we have a good heart and I wish I was a guy I will definitely marry from Benue State.
Are you satisfied with the state of the girl child in Nigeria?
As a girl child also, I’m not satisfied at all because it’s so crazy when you talk to a guy, some parents as well, and they are like, ‘You’re just a girl, you don’t have to do this , ou don’t have to do that.’ For me as an example, I’ve really talked about my story, what I went through, how ignorant my mother was not to let me do what I’m doing now or become this successful. She tried to stop me but should I say I was stubborn? Yes, I was somehow, to pursue my career. She always made statements like, ‘You’re a girl, you should be doing something else not running around the streets with boys.’ So, I think it’s not just me, a lot of girls face that same problems and issues back home and I’m not really satisfied with it.
What are your views on women’s football in Nigeria?
Generally, the women’s league and women football is nothing to write home about in Nigeria. I wish there’s something I could change but that’s not within my power. I’ve travelled now, I’ve seen a lot of things, how other countries try to organise their leagues and make women football grow. But since I left, nothing’s change, things aren’t getting better. The league is still below the expected standard. It’s not good, it’s not encouraging and it won’t help us develop others.
What was it like playing for a big side like Atletico in Spain?
The big women clubs are in America or France. They are the biggest leagues in the world, not Spain. It’s just the name, Atletico Madrid, and it sounds so crazy for a lot of people hearing it. However, when we talk about football, then the Spanish league is nothing compared to the league in America, so I didn’t see it as the biggest. My biggest team and career so far was in the US. Even now, you can see that all the best players in the world are playing in that league. In Spain, how many big players do you think of? They don’t go there because the league isn’t that crazy. It’s just the name.
You recently joined Shanghai Shenhua in China. What informed your decision, having played in the MLS, Spain, and other leagues?
I love traveling a lot. I love meeting people, learning from different coaches and cultures and all of that. So, it’s interesting and I enjoy playing in all those places. Right now, I’m in China and I’m enjoying my time there, so that is the most important thing. When you’re happy it seems so easy and smooth. So I’m so happy and glad that each team I go, they always welcome me and it seems so easy for me. I don’t know of other people.
What crazy things did you do on and off the pitch?
On the pitch in the US, that was two years ago, I had this hair bun I always put on. We were training and all of a sudden, my wig and the hair bun fell off but I didn’t realise it was off, I was still running with the ball and all the players stopped and were all laughing. At the back of my mind, I was like, ‘what is happening?’ I was with the ball and was about scoring, and everyone was just laughing. So, I turned and tried to look around. Then, one of them just pointed, saying ‘Franny.’ Then I looked at it. It was embarrassing and at the same time funny; even the coach, everyone were just laughing. Each time I remember the scenario, it always cracks me up. And off the field, my first boyfriend ever, we were together and were going out. I was younger then, I was really young. We were going out and there was this very pretty girl that was so cute, cuter than me, and my boyfriend was just staring at her and I was like, ‘Hey! What are you looking at?’ And a lot of people were there, lots of them and I didn’t even know when I slapped him like, ‘Hey! What are you looking at? Is she prettier than me?’ I did it with all seriousness and everything. The jealousy was just obvious. I was so jealous at that moment and everyone was just laughing at me. In our language (Tiv) they said, ‘Take care of your property, I like your spirit, carry on.’ I was so embarrassed but now it’s always fun to me anytime I remember it or when I see him. If we get to see each other, he usually asks me, ‘I hope you’ve stopped this drama thing?’ And I’ll be like, ‘Hey! I’ve stopped.’ So, it’s kind of crazy.
Who do you think is the most stubborn player in the Falcons?
You mean the most stubborn player in the Falcons? Well, maybe me, maybe not me, I don’t really know.
In camp, who’s the player that makes others laugh?
That’s Francesca Ordega. She is easy-going, playful but don’t try to be smart, don’t play with her intelligence because it hurts a little. But then, she’s just crazy.
Who’s the best singer and dancer in the team?
Best singer and dancer?That is definitely Chiamaka (Nnadozie) for traditional dance. She’s also good with Christian music. She is really good.
What do you do before and after a game?
I just like to wear my headset, listen to my favourite music from Wizkid. Also, I try to eat a lot of food to recover the energy lost.
You were one of Nigeria’s standout players at the AWCON. Were you under any pressure to replicate or take your game to a higher at the Women’s World Cup?
I wasn’t under any form of pressure at all because it might be my day today and not my day tomorrow. So, whatever happens, I’m okay. I’m not under any pressure.
How much of an influence has coach Dennerby been in the squad and how has his coaching improved your general play.
That’s a tough question. Personally, I think he is okay, I’ve learned from him, I’ve learned from other coaches. So I bring everything together with my experience, I put everything together. He has helped me in terms of thinking, being smart with the ball but I don’t know of other people but I think we are really happy with him.