As the above photo suggests, the first thing that strikes you about Equatorial Guinea midfielder Anonman is her hair. Platted in cornrows with every other row dyed green, it is a tonsorial work of art.
“Our team has four colours, but I chose green for this World Cup because it’s particularly significant for our country. It reflects African tradition and culture,” she told FIFA.com with a beaming smile.
After the laughter, however, it was down to the serious business of discussing FIFA Women’s World Cup matters. The Africans open their Group D campaign with a match against Norway in Augsburg on Wednesday, with Anonman leading the side out as captain. It is a responsibility which the 22-year-old takes seriously.
“It’s definitely not easy being captain, but I’m doing my best,” she continued. “Sometimes it’s not easy to communicate with some of the older players but I’m doing what I can. If I see something is not right, I’ll tell them, and hopefully they will listen to me and improve. But it’s wonderful for a player my age to be captain of the national team. It’s very special.”
Also special to Anonman and the Nzalang Nacional was qualifying for Germany; marking the country’s first appearance in the finals of a senior FIFA competition. A 3-1 win over hosts South Africa in the semi-finals of CAF’s African Women’s Championship confirmed Equatorial Guinea as the third side from the continent to take part in a FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“It was the best day of my life, the happiest day, because we succeeded in doing something that lots of other teams have never managed,” she smiled.
At the beginning because my mother was not keen on me playing football as a girl. But I always played with the young boys my age as I was keen to find out how the men played the game.
One of the No10’s team-mates that day was Teclaire Bille Esono, who would have been playing at Germany 2011 until a car crash in Douala, Cameroon on 15 December tragically ended her life. She was the same age as Anonman.
“It was a very sad time for us all, it hurt us a lot to lose someone so important for the team, and the country as well,” she reflected. “She always played a very important role in the team. We went through some very sad times, but as time has gone by we have learnt to adapt and get used to her loss. Things are slowly getting a bit better.”
Anonman, who was signed by German outfit Jena following Equatorial Guinea’s continental triumph in 2008, is happy to be playing international football in her club’s country – especially in the summer, as the icy winter in the central German town is something she has not quite got used to yet!
“There’s a very big difference between Africa and here in Germany,” she said. “Everything is different really, from the pitches to the league system, and things in Germany are very developed compared to what we have back home. Even people’s attitudes to the game are different.
“Things were not easy for me at the beginning because my mother was not keen on me playing football as a girl. But I always played with the young boys my age as I was keen to find out how the men played the game. It wasn’t easy because that wasn’t really the done thing.
“However, since I started doing well in football, my mother has become quite the football fan, especially after the 2008 victory in the African Championship! I think for the new generation of girls in Equatorial Guinea things are going to be very different and they will definitely have the support of their families to try and fulfil their wishes and play the sport.”
Perceptions of the women’s game in Equatorial Guinea will change further still, should Marcelo Frigerio’s side pull off a shock result against the Scandinavians. Should they fail to do so, it won’t be for the want of trying.
“We’ve been working on everything to make sure we don’t have problems in any area,” she concluded. “We’re not too focused on attack or defence, our main idea is to follow our coach’s system.
“We are a young team and our main focus is to get results, even though it won’t be easy in our group. We’ll be doing what we can to qualify for the quarter-finals. We’re very excited now about starting to play. Participating in this tournament is very important for us.”