Super Falcons defender Glory Ogbonna, who will be making her debut appearance at the Women’s World Cup in July, is bullish about the team’s chances of making an impact at the tournament. The Besiktas woman tells ‘TANA AIYEJINA about her expectations at the World Cup

Congrats on your selection for the World Cup. How did you get to know you were included in the list for the trip to Australia and New Zealand, and how did you feel?

Thanks for congratulating me. Honestly, it’s a big one for me and my career. I got to know about the selection while in a bank. I hadn’t checked my social media platforms that day, but someone called me to congratulate me on making the World Cup squad. And I was like ‘is the list out?’ And he said ‘yes.’ I had to rush and check the social media and I saw that the list was out and I made it. Honestly, it was a very big one for me, the joy was massive. And I celebrated it right inside the bank. I was very happy and I tapped the man in front of me, a big man,  and I said ‘sir, I want to share some good news with you.’ And he said ‘what’s that?’ I said ‘look here, I made the World Cup list.’ He saw it and started celebrating with me. And then other people inside the bank joined me in celebrating. I was on a queue and was like ‘let this queue move fast so I can conclude my transaction and go outside to break the news to my family by calling my dad. After my transaction, I rushed outside to call my dad. When I called him he shouted ‘praise the Lord.’ And I asked him why he was praising the Lord. He said he’s aware already I made the list, that someone showed him the list before I called. So, the joy was massive, everyone was celebrating, I could hear from the background my entire family celebrating. So, it’s a great one for me.

There’s co-hosts Australia, Ireland and Canada in your group. Do you think this is an easy group?

In our group, yes we have the co-hosts Australia, Ireland and Canada as well. No group is easy, I always say this. In a tournament, everyone is qualified to be there. Honestly, the tournament is not going to be easy, no group will be easy because every team passed through the qualification process before they made it to the main tournament. So, we just have to go there, keep our heads up, play to our coaches’ instructions and be determined. We can make something out of the tournament and even achieve better results than the previous editions we attended. This time around, we are going there to create a positive impression. That’s what I believe.

Falcons play Canada July 21 in their opener in Melbourne. How important is this game to the team?

Yes, we play Canada first July 21. It’s an important game. Of course we know Canada are a very good side, we’ve played them in friendlies and one of them ended 3-3. Yes those were friendlies, but this is the World Cup tournament, everyone is coming with a new energy, you know what I mean. They are a good side, no doubt, but we are also a good side too, don’t forget about that. We are going to play them and it’s going to be a tough game. We are not afraid and I don’t think any team is afraid of anyone in the World Cup. Nobody is underrating any team, so, believe me, we’ll go there playing as a team and be confident in ourselves.

How far do you think the Falcons can go this time, having attended all previous editions of the competition?

How far the Falcons will go? Like I said earlier, we are going to create a more positive impression, better than the previous World Cups we’ve been to. This time around, we hope to surpass our previous record. That’s the main aim now. And it’s not impossible. Of course,  the World Cup is won by teams, so, if we win the World Cup it’s not a crime. Like I said, we are going there to give a very good account of ourselves and surpass our previous record.

This is your first World Cup at senior level. What does this mean to you?

It’s a great honour and privilege to represent my country at this level, the biggest stage of women’s football. I really don’t know how to describe the joy in me, but it’s always a great thing to represent my country at the senior level. This is what I’ve been dreaming of. Ever since I started representing the country at junior level, the U-20 Women’s World Cup twice, I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to also represent the country at senior level and here it is. I’ll make very good use of it.

Are you setting a personal target at the competition?

Of course yes. My personal target is to go there and give a very good account of myself, help the team to achieve positive results and make an impact. My first target was to be in the World Cup, yes, now I’m there. Another target is to make sure I keep that tempo, keep being myself and keep doing what I know how to do best in order to help the team collectively and get better results than we did in previous editions of the tournament. So, I’m hoping to help the team individually and collectively for us to make an impact. Yes, that’s my target.

This tournament will be the first to feature the expanded format of 32 teams from the previous 24. How massive will this be for women’s football?

This tournament will feature 32 countries, bigger than when we used to have 24 teams. It’s a great move for women’s football and everybody is going to show what they are made of. We want to show that we are in this World Cup because we qualified for the World Cup. It’s so massive with 32 countries competing. Everybody would play and showcase what they have, that we are here not just to play but to make an impact. It’s a great decision by FIFA. For us, we are going to the World Cup to show the stuff we are made of. The other 31 countries coming also want to show the stuff they are made of. So, it’s going to be competitive.

Keen followers of women’s football are of the opinion that the Falcons should be up there with the likes of the US, Germany, Canada, having been pioneers of the game in Africa. Do you think the team can reach it’s full potential in Australia and New Zealand?

Well, fans of women’s football think we should be at the level of these teams you mentioned. These countries will also be at the World Cup playing against some African countries. No country is going to the World Cup to fumble, every country is preparing seriously, it doesn’t matter who is there, it doesn’t matter if it’s the champions, whether it’s US, Germany or Canada. Everybody is going there to show what they can do and to show that they are there for real. The World Cup is going to be very competitive, like I stated earlier, it’s going to b tough, underrate any team at your peril. You can see what’s happening in global football, you just can’t predict what will happen next, you can’t underrate any team. Any team can beat any big team you think that they can’t beat.

Each player at the World Cup would be guaranteed at least $30,000 after FIFA this month announced some of the prize monies would be disbursed to the players directly, rather than to the national federations. How impactful will this be on women footballers?

The FIFA announcement paying each player at least $30,000 at the World Cup is very important to the development of women’s football. It will serve as a source of motivation for the players. Now all the countries would want to qualify for the next World Cup, the players will put in their best because money motivates a lot. So, it’s a great decision and it will help improve the players as well as help them. Trust me, this money will go a long way for the players, it will solve a whole lot of problems for the players. When you go to the World Cup and come back, people, family and friends, look up to you, you know what I mean. They want you to share the goodies with them and also reach out to people generally. So, this money will go a long way. I appreciate FIFA for this decision. It’s the first time this is happening and I must say I’m lucky to be among the first set that will benefit from it. All the same, it’s the World Cup and all the players and countries that qualified are focused on the tournament. They dream the World Cup, eat the World Cup and discuss the World Cup. It’s the season of the World Cup and everybody is ready, we are ready and we are going there to make an impact. Trust me, Nigerians will be so proud of us. I believe that.

How would you describe your season in the Turkish topflight?

I had a good season in Turkey playing for ALG Spor Kulubu before signing for Besiktas. So, it was a good season for me. With Besiktas we reached the quarter-finals of the Cup event. They’ve retained me even though there were a couple of clubs that wanted me. I should have been in France now with Saint-Etienne but my manager at Besiktas wanted me and he spoke with the club president not to allow me go. And they did the needful, you know what I mean. They gave me an improved contract. So, I had to stay back. My season in Turkey was classic, a great one for me.

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