Nigeria’s Super Falcons defender, Onome Ebi is among the history makers at the on-going 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup holding in France.
Despite the Falcons losing 3-0 to Norway in their opening Group A match on Saturday, the 36-year-old Ebi walked into the record books as she became the first ever African player, man or woman to appear at five World Cups.
After losing to the Scandinavians at the Stade Auguste Delaune on a day so much was expected from the Falcons, Ebi feels proud in accomplishing an incredible feat of consistency, resilience and longevity.
“Playing in my fifth World Cup is really, really amazing, and I worked hard for it. I thank God it has come to pass. I would say I’m enjoying it, not just today’s game,” she told FIFA.com.
Ebi’s long association with the FIFA Women’s World Cup started at USA 2003. The then 20-year-old was part of a squad-led by coach Sam Okpodu which had the likes of Mercy Akide, Perpetua Nkwocha, Precious Dede and Florence Omagbemi.
While she played less than 15 minutes in the tournament, Ebi demonstrated enough talent to pave the way for her to become a mainstay of the Nigerian defence through 2007 in China, 2011 in Germany and 2015 in Canada.
However, the road to France did not run smooth. In 2016, Ebi picked up a severe hand injury in the final of the African Women’s Championships in Cameroun, with Florence Omagbemi as head coach of the team. The subsequent surgery and rehabilitation tested her resolve.
“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 and now I think I am even better than I was before.
“I didn’t expect what happened against Norway but it is football, you lose some and you win some. We didn’t get the goals, so we are going to learn from what happened and work on those lessons for the second game,” she added.
The Super Falcons enter the encounter with South Korea on Tuesday knowing their World Cup hopes are on the line as a victory against the Asians would put knockout phase qualification in their hands.
Ebi, whose experience and adversity provide plenty of encouragement for the Falcons is aware of the do or die nature of the clash and believes Nigeria can rise to the challenge.