I am one of those people who likes signs from (insert y0ur higher power here), to know that I am on the right track. For me, I dont mind going through hard times, if I know that I am heading towards where I am supposed to go, since overcoming challenges are all a part of this great thing called life. An example of this for me was when I changed schools in grade 9. I went from a tiny Catholic school to a giant public high school, and my first year was one of the worst of my life, as I was shy and didnt’ really have any friends, but the whole time, as miserable as I was, I knew it was a mountain I needed to climb in order to get to where I wanted to be.
The past year and a half in Norway I have had some major challenges on and off the field. As I mentioned in a past blog, I have gotten hit badly with injuries; first a calf tear that went undiagnosed for a good part of last year, that cost me pretty much my season at Kolbotn, and a chance to go to World Cup Qualifying with Ireland in the fall. This year, I had a knee injury that kept me out in February and after rebounding from that with a chance to go to games with Ireland against Israel and Switzerland, I got hit with some (still undiagnosed) pain and swelling in my ankle that has again hindered my season once again. I also had some pretty hard stuff going on off the field here in Oslo, and in the summer, I questioned my decision to stay both at Kolbotn this year and Oslo in general. I felt like again, I was just swimming in a sea of challenges, but not really sure or feeling like I had any particular direction.
I got that sign in the last couple of weeks that there has been a point to me being in Oslo, and at Kolbotn in general this year, even if things haven’t been fantastic for me on and off the field.
For whatever reason in my heart of hearts, I have had the desire to combine girls soccer with changing society for the better. All the things that soccer does off the field; uniting people from different backgrounds, the joy and self esteem that comes from mastering skills, the fun, the opportunities to learn positive life lessons, and from another amazing story I was blessed to be a part of one night in Bolivia, the opportunity to see how soccer can change the idea of what women are capable of, in societies where perhaps they don’t have as many opportunities.
So when I was a senior at Yale, I did what I always seem to do in the academic realm; I studied something to do with women’s soccer, in particular the title of my senior thesis was looking at how the success of the women’s national team in Nigeria in the 1999 World Cup, changed Nigerian societies perception of what women were capable of. Fast forward ahead to 2010, and on a hot July day after practice, my Nigerian teammate and I struck up a casual conversation while stretching about what she is thinking of doing after soccer, and she said she had an academy back home in Nigeria that she wanted to go back to to develop. I told her about girlsCAN and all my ideas with it, and before we knew it, I had told her I would come to Nigeria to see what she does there, and she said that she would bring a team to our Showcase in Canada.
I went home that night and I looked up the senior thesis that I had written almost 10 years ago; and front and centre in the photo of my title page, which was a picture of the Nigerian women’s national team of 1999, was my Kolbotn teammate, Maureen Mmadu; a participant in 2 Olympics and 3 World Cups. I had all the affirmation I needed that despite everything I have been through in the last 12 months, I was right where I was supposed to be.
No better feeling in the world.