HappyGirlAlways is the hashtag used most by youngster Asisat Oshoala on her Facebook profile and when you speak to her, it is not difficult to understand why. “It’s my life philosophy,” Oshoala told us. “I consider myself a happy girl, because whatever situation I find myself in, I try to be happy. I like to see people smiling, to make my friends laugh and smile. That’s what I’m like!”
Right now, the young Nigerian has even more reasons to showcase her infectious smile, because things are going exceptionally well for her in Canada. Nigeria are in the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2014 and Oshoala has played a pivotal part in that success. She has scored three goals in four games, the last two key to breaking down the morale of New Zealand in the early minutes of the teams’ quarter-final match and lighting up the path to the last four. “Starting the games full of energy forms part of our character as a team,” Oshoala explained. “That’s how we pressure our rivals – and if we score early it makes them lose heart.”
An all-terrain player
A few days ago, her team-mate Courtney Dike scored the fastest goal in the history of the tournament and against the Kiwis, Oshoala netted the second-fastest. So it looks like the strategy is working. “I’m not competing with Courtney, it just happened that way,” she laughed. During her chat with FIFA.com, her team-mates passed by en route to the bus, shouting and singing, infected with the ‘happy philosophy’ of our protagonist.
The star of Nigerian side Rivers Angels was holding in her hands the plaque she claimed for finishing as the game’s best player, a prize she more than deserved, and not only for her two goals. Oshoala was given the opportunity to showcase her ability to play all over the pitch, as she explained: “Today I played as a striker, but at the end, when one of our defenders got injured, I played as a centre-back.” In fact, when she turns out for Nigeria’s senior side, it is usually as a goalscoring midfielder.
So is it that flexibility that has seen her nicknamed ‘Seedorf’? “I am called that because of my playing style and also my strength,” she said. “And I like it, because (Clarence) Seedorf was a fantastic player.” But another nickname, ‘Superzee’, produced an ever bigger smile. “You know, like ‘Supergirl’, but ‘Superzee’,” she added amid raucous laughter.
More than a semi-final
Team-mate Courtney then walked over. “Did she break my record?” she asked, avidly. After discovering that she still holds the mark for the fastest goal, if only by a few seconds, Dike let out a cry of satisfaction and walked off in elation after sharing a joke with Oshoala.
‘Superzee’ undoubtedly transmits happiness to others around her, but she turned serious for a moment when the semi-final against Korea was mentioned. “Two years ago, in Japan, we also got to the semi-finals, but we lost 2-0 to USA,” she recalled, before adding with determination. “I’m not thinking about losing another semi-final. We are going to give it all to get the victory.”
Oshoala loves telling her family and friends about her experiences and trips around the world. “When I return home after being with the national team in a tournament, I always have lots of things to tell my people,” she said. And now, this happy girl hopes to return home telling tales of how she became a world champion at Canada 2014.