FT African Legends Series: Perpetua Nkwocha, the best ever?

Ester of Brazil holds off Perpetua Nkwocha of Nigeria during the Women's First Round Group F match between Nigeria and Brazil at the Workers' Stadium on Day 4 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 12, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Aug. 11, 2008 - Source: Jeff Gross/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Ester of Brazil holds off Perpetua Nkwocha of Nigeria during the Women's First Round Group F match between Nigeria and Brazil at the Workers' Stadium on Day 4 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 12, 2008 in Beijing, China.

(Aug. 11, 2008 - Source: Jeff Gross/Getty Images AsiaPac)

While growing up, she wanted to be a nun or a lawyer, but the passion on the field of play just called out too loudly for her to resist. Perpetua Nkwocha is arguably one of the best players that have played soccer in Africa, men and women included. The attacking midfielder was known for her gracious ability to blend speed and flair to always deliver masterpiece performances. Beyond that, we want  to dig on who exactly she is and how much she has done for herself, her supporters and her country.


Overview

She was born in Nigeria on the 3rd of January 1976 and has always been passionate about soccer. After playing in Sweden for the Sunnanå SK team, it was then fit for her to coach a Swedish team Clemensnäs IF which plays in Swedish Women’s Football Division 2. She continues to offer her expertise on the game abroad, and also as part of the coaching team of the Super Falcons (Nigeria's Women National team). Evidently, the 42-year old believes that the best way to retire is not only to buy a lavish holiday home on an island, but in sharing all the lessons learnt with the younger generation. She has also graciously participated in 4 FIFA World Cups and of course the Olympics in Sydney, Athens and Beijing. Even though she began her international career at 23, it did not take her long to be at the top because within five years, she had many eyes glued on her.

Perpetua Nkwocha of Nigeria celebrates after scoring their first goal during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 Group A match between Canada and Nigeria at the Rudolf-Harbig Stadium on July 5, 2011 in Dresden, Germany.  (July 4, 2011 - Source: Scott Heavey/Getty Images Europe)

Perpetua Nkwocha of Nigeria celebrates after scoring their first goal during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 Group A match between Canada and Nigeria at the Rudolf-Harbig Stadium on July 5, 2011 in Dresden, Germany.

(July 4, 2011 - Source: Scott Heavey/Getty Images Europe)

She just could not stop winning!

She was voted the Africa’s Woman Footballer of the Year, 4 times which is more than any other woman in the continent. The prominence of the title lies in its ability to recognise a player’s skills and the hard work invested. In 2004, she got the Best African Female Footballer Award in the African Championship which led to her being declared the most valuable Nigerian player. Out of the 7 CAF Women's Championships she participate in, she won 5. One of her memorably classic performances was the 2004 CAF performance where she scored 4 goals against Cameroon enough to snatch the tournament title in the final. Actually, she only took sixty minutes to bag the quad . In the Nigerian squad, the invisible messianic cloak belonged to Perpetua beyond reasonable doubt. She just could not stop winning things, even collecting more individual honors for being the top goal scorer in the Women’s AFCON thrice  in 2004, 2006 and 2010.


Goal machine turned perfect bride

After gracing the field of play for a number of years, she graced the magical aisle and the golden altar two years ago when she got married to her long time sweetheart Ernest Ikechukwu Nuufoh. During the wedding, her husband alluded to Nkwocha’s calm nature which he could not resist. Her wedding is not just a successful love story, but it goes all the way to combating stereotypes about women not being able to balance a successful career and marriage. Furthermore, Nkwocha also proves that whoever said women who play soccer are too “manly” to get married was wrong. It is possible and beautiful for women to fall in love with other people and soccer.

One of her memorably classic performances was the 2004 CAF performance where she scored 4 goals against Cameroon enough to snatch the tournament title in the final. Actually, she only took sixty minutes to bag the quad . In the Nigerian squad, the invisible messianic cloak belonged to Perpetua beyond reasonable doubt.
— Simiso Shabangu, FirstTouch Africa