I CAN STILL PLAY TILL MY 40s IF...
If any other male or female player achieved the incredible distinction of winning an unprecedented five continental titles – all in succession – you would probably expect them to be, not unsurprisingly, rather immodest about their feat. But Kikelomo Ajayi, former captain of Nigeria’s “Super Falcons”, is not one for the arrogant approach, despite becoming one of the most successful international player in the history of the African game. In this exclsuive interview speaks on new life in Slovenia...
Either true or false, you have remain Nigeria female football legend, how did you find life in Slovenia?
It is been a great moment for me right from the day I arrived at the country, I have been receiving every support from my team mates and I really feel at home even though there is no place like home but I am happy to be here.
At 34, a lot of people expected you to have hang your boot by now but it seems there is still more to get from you?
I am not ready yet. My system still intact to play the game and I want to use my experience to bring up a lot of young players in my club. I still have the strength to play the game. I don’t mind playing till 40 years provided am fit. Football is too sweet for me to stay away from. I can’t just seat without playing ball. It has been an addiction and it runs in my blood every seconds. Age does not matter at times, it is what you can be able to do on the field of play. Like you know that I have small stature, that has really been an advantage for me, and I am not ready to quit yet.
Is that what motivated you to move to Slovenia?
Of course! Since I am fit and good on the ball and the officials saw what they want him me so I have given a contract to sign. Like I told you that it is not about age at time, it is about your ability. I think you are aware that Malta of Brazil still playing till now and you know her age of course, so it is not age but fitness and composure.
You are one of the most committed Super Falcons player with five Nations Cup trophies for Nigeria Female national team. How will you recount your memory in the Nigeria colour?
It has been a great moment for me to come from Akure with a small stature and become a national hero of the female national team according you (laughed). I thank God for every moment I spent with national team. it is not an easy task at the beginning but I am so grateful to God particularly and the people behind the scene because I was motivated by lots of good people. Playing for Falcons with self determination has really helped me to where I am today, even though road was rough but I thank God again. I have a sweet memory by winning five nations cup trophies with the team and been at the Women World cup is another wonderful memory for me.
Can you recall how you started your career with that small stature then?
I started playing football like every other footballers, playing on the streets before engaging in club side then in Akure. But I started making wave when I joined the likes of Koko Queens of Akure, Rivers Angels of Port Harcourt. After my impressive games in Akure and Port Harcourt, I was signed by Jegede Babes where I have the opportunity to be called into the Female national team before I joined another club in Uyo but I had Europe breakthrough after leaving Pelican Stars of Uyo, I left Uyo for Niederkirchen of Germany before I came back home to joined Police FC of Lagos. I really thank God the way I moved my career because he has always been there for me even when I was in Bayelsa Queens of Yenogoa.
Among the clubs you have played for in Nigeria, which one is your best?
I can point out Jegede Babes because I had a lot of opportunity in the team and I started building my confidence over there. That was where I started making my name in the national team.
Which coach has really helped you in your career?
Coach Ismaila Mabo really tried for me, he gave me the confidence I built on today, I was nobody before God sent him to me and he really gave me the courage. I can say he discovered me from the league. He told me to come to Falcons camp in North, even though I doubt my ability among the bigger players in the team then because I was so tiny like anything to compare with. But God has ordained him to help me built my national career.
How did you cope been called a police officer knowing fully that Nigerian police are not trust worthy and most of them are corrupts?
I don’t agree with you because corruption is everywhere. Being called a police footballer is an honour for me, I can never denied my status because we all know how corruption started. I cope very well and I enjoy it as well because it is another pride for a lady like me to pass through the club. I am grateful!
Did any of your parent supported you to become a footballer of your caliber today?
It was total battle. My parent were never in support of it because I was the first daughter and the second born in the family, so you could imagine how tough it was for me to be where I am now. And my stature again contributed to the refusal, I was beaten and punished anytime my mother or father saw me playing among boys. I was really maltreated before I became what I am today. At a time, my parent stopped giving me food or money to eat because they want to be in school but they never ask me my dream but I know what God had for me so I never wary of their punishment even with starving but I never let it bothered me because I must have enjoyed myself on the field of play.
When exactly did they finally dance to your tone?
It was when I started making money and giving them. I mean when I joined some clubs and started going for competitions and I get money, infact I still play among boys for completion and make my money because I attracts a lot of attention because of my stature and performance. I could remember the day my mother started praying for me after she received some money from me after coming back from competition. There was a day she called me small mother, I busted into laughed.
But why did you think your parent does not want you to play football at the beginning?
They wanted me to become a banker or to be an educated person before going for any other profession but today I thank God for everything for mixing up. I understand that no parent will allow her daughter to go for football especially playing among men. It was a tough one for me but I thank God for not leaving me in the battle. I could remember the day my mother asked me why I, as a girl, was taking such a serious interest in football to the exclusion of other things. They asked me if I could see any other girl doing what I was doing, playing against other boys confusing me that it was Taboo in Yoruba land but I later discover that she’s discouraging me.
What about your brothers, did they supported you while your parent refused?
Yes, they really tried for me a lot and that is why I can never let anyone of them down. At times they helped me to sneak my boots out. In fact they really supported me because they also like the way people will stand and be watching my games then, so they can easily say that is there sister. We even contributed some money to buy ball and get a trophy to our street games but I always took won the trophy.
You must have been a fulfilled player today?
I can always be grateful to God for what I have passed through and what I am today. I am fulfill, God has really blessed me, though I may not be so buoyant like that but I am contented with what I am today and I believe more still coming for me by his grace.
How did you came about your nickname mamayaro?
It was Kaduna fans that gave me the name when we went to Kaduna for national assignment, and they saw my small stature with my movement like former Super Eagles left back Celestin Babayaro, they said I play like Babayaro and that was how the name started making waves till Europe and I love it.
What did you like doing off the pitch?
I love watching movies, I mean Nigerian movies. I love it so much because I have good relationship with some artistes.
What kind of Nigerian movie?
Yoruba movies. Especially Saheed and Faithia Balogun movies, they are too much.
What relationship did you have with both artistes?
We are like family because they always give me lot of thoughts on how I can combine football with film acting. They are my big sister and brother anytime any day, they motivated me to come to so Slovenia because I always seeks advice from them.
How did you think that will be possible if you agree with such advise?
It is possible but let us leave that for now, it is a matter of planning and executing
Can you reveal a man in your life to us?
No comment about that for now
What did you hope to go into after football retirement?
I may be a film producer of go into football coaching but it depends on where I finally settle at the end.
Did you have the appetite to become a coach?
Why not? I can coach any team but I will have to do my proper training and get my certificate. Coching is one of my consideration but God knows the best.
Uche Eucharia was sacked after failing to qualified for 2012 Olympics, did you think you can still fill the hole one day?
I man not saying I want to coach Super Falcons even if I eventually become a professional coach in the future. Eucharia tried a lot for the team but Nigerians don’t always have patience. Why did they sacked her after taking them to World Cup and won the nations cup? She needed to be compensated if we want to be fair and that is why coaching in Nigeria is not always encouraging.
Why did you think Coaching in Nigeria is not encouraging?
Because you can never have a second chance to correct your mistakes.
What will you change in the national team if you are given the job in the future?
What makes you think I want the job in the first place? There are lots things needed to be changed in the national team, one of them is match bonus motivation, since 1997, Super Eagles have not won a single trophy but they are getting millions of dollars even if they lost at quarter finals. Who among the ex-Eagles’ star that have won two consecutive nations cup? Myself alone won five trophies and I can account what it was been given to us. And we are complaining that Uche cannot win the World Cup. If Super Falcons are motivated like the Super Eagles, by now, we must have won the World Cup. Falcons have the largest trophies in the cabinet of Nigerian federation true or false? Nigerian FA employ oyinbo for Eucharia and he was paid, so what happen to Eucharia salary? And you still fire her. So unfair and discouraging to coach the national team. We treated our coaches like slave which is not suppose to be.