Asisat Oshoala has been stripped of the Nigeria women’s team captaincy, SportNewsAfrica can exclusively report.
The Barcelona star, who vice-captained the Super Falcons at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, was elevated to the captaincy post on September 17, 2019, but 30 months later, the reigning and record-equaling four-time Africa Women’s Player of the Year has now been relieved of her leadership role.
Back in 2019, former acting coach Chris Danjuma had handed Oshoala the armband, after stripping Desire Oparanozie, following her fallout with the Nigerian football authorities, having led a sit-in protest at the showpiece.
The change of captainship comes just a few days before Nigeria’s 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations build-up against Olympic champions Canada in two-legged ties on 8 and 11 April respectively in British Columbia.
Head coach Randy Waldrum had named a 25-player roster with the Barcelona star, not in the traveling squad due to injury, having only just seen out seven of her 10-month on the sidelines. The 28-year-old striker will now be missing the fourth successive game for Nigeria due to the thigh injury she suffered while on international duty in February.
Despite her anticipated absence, SportNewsAfrica learned that Oshoala will no longer be part of the Super Falcons’ leadership group following directives from the Nigeria Football Federation to the Waldrum’s led technical crew.
While the American tactician had declined comments on the expected change to the team’s leadership, sources in the Nigerian FA when contacted offered some reasons for the surprising change of captaincy.
“We have no issue whatsoever with Asisat [Oshoala] but thoughts of stripping her of the armbard came after Aisha Buhari Cup last September,” said a high-ranking official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“This is not for anything negative but for troubling concerns of seeing her struggle in national team colours. We and the coach [Waldrum] observed the captaincy is weighing her down and affecting her play. With or without it, we believe she is a true professional player and should not struggle to prove otherwise by delivering on the pitch.”
Although the Lagos-born star has been in breathtaking form for Barcelona, boasting of 19 goals in 16 games, she is yet to hit the net for Nigeria in last six outings since her treble against Equatorial Guinea in Turkey in February 2021.
As captain, she starred and inspired the Super Falcons to Turkish Women’s Cup triumph but could not help the team to avoid missing a third consecutive Olympics and also lost the maiden Aisha Buhari Cup title to South Africa.
With Oshoala’s stripping, SportNewsAfrica gathered Onome Ebi has been introduced as the team’s new captain.
While Ebi, who holds an African record of most [five] appearances at the World Cup, begins her reign as the new captain against Canada in Vancouver, CSKA Moscow forward Ordega will remain the assistant captain.
The 38-year-old had worn the armband in the absence of injured Asisat Oshoala and late-arriving assistant Francisca Ordega and led her country to a 2-0 home win over Cote d’Ivoire in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The former Minsk defender, who had also co-captained alongside Rita Chikwelu when both inspired the country to glory at the 2018 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana, will now lead the Super Falcons to a 12th campaign in Morocco, where she will make her seventh WAFCON outing, holding from July 2 to 23 this year.
Waldrum, who is the fifth different manager to handle the Super Falcons in the last five WAFCON outings, will be counting on Ebi’s good leadership in his bid to match the continental feats of Edwin Okon, Florence Omagbemi and Thomas Dennerby by guiding the West African side to a fourth consecutive tournament success this summer.
By Samuel Ahmadu