Ajibade setting her wheels in motion
Rasheedat Ajibade is captain of the Nigeria U-20 women's team
She will appear in her fourth FIFA competition at France 2018
Capped at senior level, she could also feature at France 2019
Rasheedat Ajibade seems destined for a career at the very top. Still only 18, the FC Robo player is creating a buzz on the Nigerian football scene, having earned her first senior call-up in February after starring for her country's U-17 and U-20 sides. Named as Nigeria's young female player of the year shortly after her recent promotion, Ajibade continues to break new ground at a remarkable pace.
Fortunately, the youngster feels right at home when moving quickly. Ajibade is no stranger to 'getting her skates on', having earned success in rollerblading before switching sports. "That was my number one hobby," she explains. "I put a lot of time into it and performed at a very good level. I was even champion of the state of Lagos. Then football entered my life."
Ajibade was ten years old when she took off her skates and decided to focus on her ball skills. "I found the game fun and a way of bringing people together," she says. "I missed the whole 'team spirit' aspect when I was rollerblading." Joining FC Robo in search of that shared experience, she soon caught the eye of Emmanuel Osahon Orobosa, who convinced her to dedicate her talents to football.
Born: 8 December 1999 in Mushin, Lagos, Nigeria
Position: Attacking midfielder/forward
Club: FC Robo
Idols: Marta and Cristiano Ronaldo
He was soon proved right. Ajibade made a stunning impact, as she honed her abilities, breaking into Nigeria's U-17 team before stepping up to the U-20s – and contesting three FIFA Women's World Cup finals across those age categories. She also finished top scorer in the African qualifiers for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016, and promptly repeated the feat on the road to France 2018 by finding the net in all six games.
"We play a very attacking style of football, which suits me perfectly," she says, explaining away her qualifying record with admirable modesty. Ajibade's eye for goal seems to know no bounds, however, and after making her senior debut in February, she marked her second cap with a hat-trick against Senegal. "I really didn't expect to be called up by the Super Falcons," she recalls. "It was a wonderful surprise, and obviously, it was an experience I really enjoyed."
Her focus now is on shining once again for the U-20s. The 2018 edition of the U-20 Women's World Cup is looming on the horizon, and Ajibade is hungry to impress on the global stage. "Every time I take part in this event is another dream come true for me," she says. "I can't wait to test myself against the best and to show the world what I can do. There's no better opportunity."
Judging by her progress so far, the No10 can expect an even better chance next year – at the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™. "I hope so. If it happens, that would be another dream come true, but one that's even bigger, more beautiful and more extraordinary."