Nigerian female table tennis ace, Funke Oshonaike has declared that she is not thinking about retiring just yet, in spite of her several years and appearances in major competitions in a very long and glittering career.
Oshonaike has been around the table tennis court longer than any other woman in the history of the sport in Nigeria, but the ping-pong Amazon says she is not in a hurry to quit the game that has brought her fame and fortune.
The Lagos State-born star, who is now based in Hamburg, Germany, tells the amazing story of how determination and God’s grace took her to the top of her career.
The CEO of Funke Oshonaike Foundation recounts the battles she fought in keeping men at bay when she was young, how she initially wanted to be a broadcaster as well as her many challenges, regrets in sports.
Oshonaike takers up the tale: “I’m from Agbowa in Lagos State. I started playing table tennis on soak away pit/wooden table. I was actually following my brother and I used to be a tomboy.
“Growing up was fun in Somolu and on the streets of Lagos. People were always surprised when they see me playing table tennis on the streets and I got a lot of support, some even gambled on me. My school also supported me.
“From primary 1 to 5, I was always coming 1st or 2nd in my class but when I got to primary six, I came 4th.
“I cried bitterly but my dad never got mad at me because he knew that it was because I was combining sports with education.
“It was not so easy for me because I love to be the best in both. Most of the time, I had to travel or leave school to go for competitions, so it affected me a lot.
“That’s why up till today I’m not good in mathematics. I remember when we were preparing for the 1991 All Africa Games in Cairo, Egypt, we were in camp in Ilorin for almost a year.
“I had to change my school from Lagos to another one in Ilorin. It was hard combining both though but I made it because like I said I love schooling a lot back then.
“I was discovered on the streets of Lagos and then taken to Rowe Park to get better. That should be around 1985/86.
“I won the first senior championship at the age of 16. My elder brother started with me then handed me over to coach Olasumbode (coach Malawi). To me, there’s no one like him.
“My parents supported me a lot but my dad supported me more. He was always with me, wiped my tears, borrowed money to buy my first racket! In fact, after God it is my Dad.
“The most cherished is the All Africa Games, COJA 2003 in Abuja. My fist child was just 6 months old and I won 4 gold medals for Nigeria! I was the best sports woman that year.
“I wanted to be a newscaster back then because I always watched the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) network news. I liked the way the women dressed and the way they read the news. I also wanted to be a lawyer.
“I love sports, I have passion for it, I’m disciplined, focused, dedicated, eat healthily, wonderful family that’s supporting me, I’m happy with sport for now.
“1994 in Italy and the first time in the national team was at the age of 14, I represented Nigeria in Ghana as a junior player
“It was easy growing up because like I said I was a Tom boy! But the temptation was huge more from agbalagba (older men) back then!
“Thank God that my parents taught me well and they always warned me about men and how God will be angry with me if I messed up. So being religious really helped me in coping with them.
“It was not easy then because some of them wanted me so much that they were giving me a lot of gifts. But thank God that it never moved me.
“I will say it was actually easier back then than now but I know how to handle it all without disrespecting anybody.
“That’s why I keep to myself a lot, I don’t go out, always within the sports premises. But sometimes it can be very tough though but to God be the glory for everything.”