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Desire Okparanozie: Aiming For Victory

Ugochi Desire Oparanozie is a Nigerian football forward with years of experience in the game of football home and abroad.

Oparanozie had her humble beginnings at Bayelsa Queens in the Nigerian Women’s Championship but over the years she has risen and played for numerous clubs around Europe including Germany’s VfL Wolfsburg and Guingamp of France.

The Guardian Life spoke to her about the upcoming women’s world cup and the challenges of playing far away from home.

Getting to your third World Cup, what does that mean to you?
It means a lot. I mean, this is the biggest stage. And being a part of it for the third time is amazing. It’s huge for me.

Will playing the World Cup in France where you’ve played for five years feel like home?
Definitely. France is home for me.

What do you think Thomas Dennerby saw in you that he made you the captain?
I think he saw potentials.

With more experienced players like Rita Chikwelu and Onome Ebi in the squad, how has the decision gone down with the team?
It’s been good. Everyone accepted it and we’re working together and focusing on how to have a successful tournament in France.

What’s different under Thomas Dennerby? How’s the feel of the squad?
He is a great coach, no doubt. He understands women football, and his wealth of experience has helped the team thus far.

The Super Falcons are placed in a tough group with hosts France, South Korea and Norway. Do you think Nigeria has a chance to qualify from the group?
Yes, we do have a good chance to qualify. And we’re working really hard both on and off the pitch to ensure we achieve that.

What are the cultural challenges of playing on a continent different from yours? Language Barriers? Racism?
You know, it’s never easy playing away from home. There’ll always be challenges….when it comes to the food, language, weather, and coupled with the fact that you’re mostly out there all by yourself. But somehow with the “NEVER DIE” spirit of Naija, I manage to pull through. Hahaha.

You’ve played against Ada Hegeberg, the first woman to win the Ballon d’or and she just won the Champions League, she will not be playing at the World Cup. Hegeberg dropped out of the national team for what she perceives as a lack of respect for female players in Norway. Months later the historic equal pay agreement was signed. Do you think the current NFF can do something similar?
I admire her strength and courage to stand for what she believes in. And I’m glad her federation came forth. If the NFF can do the same, it’ll be great.

You and Oshoala had to protest on social media before a friendly was organised. The players had to go to Abuja with placards before bonuses were paid. What measures can be taken to get the NFF to treat the Super Falcons better and perhaps as equal with the Super Eagles?
Well, it’s unfortunate we’ve had situations in the past where we’ve had to protest to be given what’s due us. It’s a shame that’s what we’ve become. Moving on, I believe if FIFA and the federal government can weigh in on this, maybe…just maybe we’ll all see light at the end of it all.

How has been the preparation for the Women’s World Cup by the NFF?
Preparation wise, Kudos to the led Amaju Pinnick administration. They’ve done well to that regard. This remains the first of it’s kind in the history of the Nigerian women national team (SuperFalcons). Though there’re so much to be improved on, but it’s better. One step at a time.

As the captain of the team. Compared to the Super Eagles, has there been any meeting on your wage structure and bonuses for the World Cup?
Yes, there’s been. And we have an understanding on that. So we’re hopeful they’ll come through. Right now we just want to focus on the World Cup, win games and qualify to the next rounds subsequently.

How have you been able to tackle various challenges in your career. Injuries, lack of playing time and the likes.
Well, I am strong and independent. You know when life hasn’t given too much of a choice when you’re faced with harsh realities of life, you have no choice but be strong. And thanks to parent, they tutored me and made me understand life. And that has helped me through my journey every step of the way.

Congrats on joining Team Coca-Cola. You said you were passionate about motivating young girls to become whatever and whoever they want to be. How have you gone about that?

Thank you. And yes, I’m passionate about motivating young girls. That’s why I’m using my Foundation “DesireOparanozieFoundation” to reach out to as many girl child as I can.

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