'I played for Nigeria while my mum died'
She has previously played for Ado Babes, Jegede Babes, Pelican Stars (all in Nigeria), Linkopings FC in Sweden, Klepp IL in Norway and now, she is at Kolbotn IL in Oslo. Already she has helped the Oslo-based club to third place finish in the Norwegian league this season. Maureen Mmadu, 33, is the most capped woman in Nigeria having played at four Fifa Women’s World Cups and two Olympic Games. She speaks to SuperSport.com on her 101 caps for Nigeria, her plans for retirement and the Super Falcons’ quest to conquer Africa once again.
What influenced you into playing football rather than taking up another job?
First, I’d say it is my talent for the game and also the belief that I will make it through football because I saw it as a way to make my life better.
To make your life better in what way?
To make me happy, take care of my family and to be relaxed in life because I knew from the beginning that my talent could take me this far in my career.
But didn't your parents kick against you playing football since it was considered a man's sport back then?
Yes my mother was very mad with my choice of playing football. She never wanted me to play football.
And what was your dad’s position?
He was very, very supportive of me. He encouraged me all the way even against my mum’s wish.
So what does your mum say now when you come home from your base in Norway?
My mum is late. She passed on in 1998 during the Caf African Women’s Championship (AWC). My mum was lying in state, when I was on the field.
So how did you cope then knowing that your mum was dead while playing for Nigeria at the same time that year?
I didn’t know until after a month. So when I got home, I said that I will not play football again. Later I changed my mind for the sake of my father and family and especially for my late mum. But it was a difficult period for me I must say.
So you mean no one informed you until after the competition?
Yes but all of my teammates knew but I didn’t know.
You're the first Nigerian woman to play in over 100 matches for the national team. Is that the reason you stopped playing for Nigeria?
No. I just felt I have done well for my country and I think the young ones should take over from where I stopped. Also, I am very happy to be the first Nigerian woman to get that number of caps in the women’s game and I am also happy to know that I am ranked 125th in the world in terms of most appearances for my country.
You're 33 now. So when do you intend to retire finally from football?
Yes I am 33. My plan is that I intend to stop after next year.
If you retire, do you intend to become a coach or stay away from football totally like some of your colleagues have done?
I will go into sports management.
Why sports management?
I am going into it because I am planning to work on my academy, I mean my football academy.
You have played 101 matches for Nigeria. Which will you consider as memorable for the Super Falcons?
It was our match in the United States of America (USA) during the World Cup in 1999 against Denmark. We had beaten North Korea, lost to the USA and we need to beat Denmark to reach the next round and we won by 2 – 0. Also, our match against Japan in 2004 Olympics is another game I remember well because we won that game too.
Also, the game against Brazil was a very big game but it was painful that we lost because we were so close to reaching the semifinal but lost when it really mattered most.
So which player would you consider your toughest opponent?
I will say Mia Hamm of the USA.
Why Mia Hamm?
She was one of the best in the game that time. She was really good when the USA played against us in the World Cup in 1999 and they really embarrassed us by beating us 7 – 1.
Now if you're to pick your all-time Super Falcons’ player who will you go for?
I will start with me. Then I will go for Mercy (Akide-Udoh), (Florence) Omagbemi, (Nkiru) Okosieme, Eberechi Opara, Ann (Chiejine-Agumanu), Patience Avre, Eucharia Uche, Perpetua Nkwocha, Prisca Emeafu and Kikelomo Ajayi. We’ve got so many players around but these are the ones I can remember immediately.
The Falcons play in the final of the 2010 AWC on Sunday against Equatorial Guinea. Do you think that they can beat their opponents knowing that the same team defeated them two years ago?
I will only tell the girls to go out there and play for the trophy and not for revenge. If they decide to play for revenge, it will distract them. I believe they can beat Equatorial Guinea and become champions of Africa again.