Henan Huishang of China defender, Onome Ebi has admitted a deep level of excitement over her emergence as the first African footballer to attend five editions of senior global competitions and oldest from the continent to ever feature in the FIFA Women’s World Cup as well.
Ebi set the new marks when she lined out for Nigeria in Saturday’s opening group match against Norway in Reims, France and, although the Falcons lost the game 3-0, the former skipper admitted she was thrilled.
While admitting it would have been a sweeter night for her had Nigeria won the game, Ebi went on to declare that it is a lifetime dream come true for her to finally stand out among the plethora of talented female footballers the entire African continent is blessed with.
She went on to admit that her journey to France 2019 was not so easy, as the Falcons’ alternate skipper to the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Ghana had to overcame a serious injury copped in 2016 to make the squad for the ongoing Female Mundial.
In the end it was a bitter-sweet achievement, as three first-half goals from the Norwegian side dashed Nigeria’s hopes of an opening win, but history was made when Ebi strode out on to the pitch at Stade Auguste Delaune, as she walked into the record books on Saturday night.
In that moment, the 36-year-old fair-skinned stopper, who has also previously played for Bayelsa Queens of Yenagoa, Piteå, Djurgården and Sunnanå SK of Sweden, Düvenciler Lisesispor and Ataşehir Belediyespor of Turkey as well as Minsk of Belarus, became the first African player, man or woman, to appear at five editions of the FIFA World Cups.
Ebi’s long association with the FIFA Women’s World Cup started at USA 2003, when the then 20-year-old was part of a squad that had Nigerian legends like Mercy Akide-Udoh, Perpetua Nkwocha, Precious Dede and Florence Omagbemi.
While she played less than fifteen minutes, Ebi demonstrated enough talent to pave the way for her to become a mainstay of the Nigerian defence through the 2007, 2011 and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cups.
However, the road to France was did not run smooth, as the veteran picked up a severe hand injury in the final of the 2016 AWCON, after which the subsequent surgery and rehabilitation tested her resolve.
However, she battled back gamely and, now that she is at France 2019 experience and adversity provide the push for Ebi, and she is using those years of wisdom gained ahead of the next game against Korea Republic.
Ebi gleefully told FIFA.com: “Playing in my fifth World Cup is really, really amazing, and I worked hard for it.
“I thank God it come to pass. I would say I’m enjoying it – just not today’s game.
“My journey wasn’t easy. The setbacks, the injury, negative words against me. But I didn’t give up.
“I kept working hard and I kept being positive in everything that I do. I pushed myself to come back. Now I think I am even better than I was before.”