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Why no male coach sexually assaulted me – Ex-Falcon Avre

US-based former Super Falcons star, Patience Avre, in this interview with EBENEZER BAJELA, talks about life after retirement from football, the joy of motherhood, her World Cup experiences and more

How is life after retirement like?

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Life right now is good and I try to take it one step at a time to do some stuff and be able to plan for the future. Though once in a while I still feel like I am on the pitch and I miss playing football. Anywhere I see people playing football, I feel like I should just jump onto the pitch and start playing with them, but it is not an easy thing. Once in a while, I still kick the ball because that’s what I enjoy doing.Information Guide Nigeria

You are the youngest Nigerian player to score at the Women’s World Cup, when you hit the back of the net in the Falcons 3-3 stalemate versus Canada in 1995 at age 18 and 363 days. How do you feel holding this record?

It was a very good thing knowing that you are the youngest player to score a goal for your country at the World Cup. You cannot compare the joy with any other thing because it was a good experience and I don’t know how to describe the feeling. It was a pleasant experience for me playing at the World Cup, and scoring a goal even makes it better and I just thank God for the achievement.

Were you aware you could achieve the feat before the tournament?

Yes I did and I worked hard to achieve that. Generally, the team worked so hard and not like how things are now. We will wake up like 5am to train and put our technique into practice but I don’t know if things are like that now.

You attended three World Cups, which would you say was your best outing?

My best outing was at the 2003 World Cup and one of my best games was against Brazil, when I was given a red card. Despite the sending off I was still voted the Woman-of-The-Match and I feel if not for the red card, we would have beaten Brazil, but these things happen in football. I can say it was a very good outing and I will never forget that because it was actually my best game as well.

What was the atmosphere in the Falcons camp like back then?

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The atmosphere then was indescribable and we lived like one big family. From the training pitch to the field of play and back to the hotel, we were always in accord and we would sing and joke together. It was really fun and a very good experience for us and whenever I think back I just smile sometimes. The unity among us was one of the reasons for our successes back then because we were very focused and it was just painful we couldn’t win the World Cup, but we lived as a family back then.

Were you prepared for your retirement?

Actually, I wasn’t prepared for it but the game retired me in a way but I thank God for everything. One or two things happened and I decided that I just wanted to stay back here (US) and work.

Do you mind sharing those things that forced you into retirement?

You know what we call ‘magomago’ in Nigeria? That’s what actually happened. Let’s take for instance the jerseys you wear to play games, the truth is that after wearing them you already sweat on them but you have people you want to give them to. For me, I think it was after the tournament in Morocco and I already gave my jersey away, but they were angry that why would I give my jersey away. And I told them that the jersey belonged to me and I could give it out to anyone I wanted because it already had my sweat on it. One thing led to another, but it’s okay because I have put that in the past.

How do men see women footballers?

Back then they don’t take us seriously and they see women playing football as tomboys. They even doubted if we were ever going to get married or even have babies. But now football has gone a long way and people have seen the other side of it. There is so much money to be made from the sport and people are encouraging their female child to play football. Girls now play professional football and they are making it big. So, who wouldn’t want to play football right now? Even brothers encourage their sisters to play football.JAMB Portal

Is it true that because of body build, men run away from women footballers?

I don’t think so because in a civilized world, men want to go out with women who are heavily built, but maybe in some places, it is not the same.

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You became a mother at 43. Was there pressure from family and friends before you gave birth?

Honestly, there was no pressure from my family and friends, and not from my husband as well. I think the only pressure was from outside and people thinking because I played football I might not be able to have babies. Some even said all the time I spent on playing football should have been used to settle down and have children. They said crazy things but when it’s time, it’s time and I believe God’s time is the best. Take a look at me now, I have two kids in three years, a boy and a girl. You can’t beat that and I am thanking God for that.

How is motherhood treating you?

It’s not been easy because I have two babies, my boy is two years and eight months while the girl is almost seven months. The responsibility is quite different from the experience of playing on the pitch because now I run around the house trying to do one or two things to keep them growing, but it’s a joyful feeling as a mother. I just want to thank God for everything.

Were your parents in support of you playing football?

May my father’s soul rest in peace, but anyway he was not a big fan of me playing football and he didn’t allow me to play football at first. But when he saw the way I was begging and crying and he saw the passion I had for it, he was the person that gave me money to transport myself to Lagos and I give him kudos for that. After then he saw how I was doing and he started supporting me, but it was difficult at first.

What other career would you have considered if football didn’t work out?

The truth is I love school and I wanted to go to school but the problem was the time. Playing here today and travelling tomorrow didn’t allow me. I really want to go back to school and one of these days I will go to complete what I had wanted to. If I am to choose now, I would say I would have been a lawyer.

Looking at your career now, do you have any form of regret?

None at all because when I look back and I see people that I started with and compare to where I am, I am grateful and thankful because it is not easy. I can say I’m blessed to be where I am today.

The 1999 Falcons are regarded as the Golden Generation of women’s football in Nigeria. What was the secret of the squad?

The secret to our success was unbeatable, and like I said, we lived as team and played as a team. Even when we had issues amongst ourselves, we always came together because we had an objective and we always forgot about our differences easily.

The Falcons lost 7-1 to the US in the opening game of the World Cup in 1999. How did the team feel losing that scandalously?

That’s a long time ago now, but I can tell you that even till today we still can’t explain what happened. That game took us by surprise and we couldn’t believe it because we just played China in a friendly game, which we won 7-0, and playing our first game at the World Cup and losing 7-1 to the United States was ridiculous. We don’t know how to describe what happened on the pitch that day, but at the end of the day we bounced back.

How were you able to bounce back against Denmark in second game?

We came together as a team and said to ourselves that the defeat was not the end of the world and that we still had time to right our mistakes and achieve what we came to the World Cup for. We cried after the game because we were so sad, but as we always did, we came together as a team and we bounced back in a forceful way to beat Denmark in our next game.

Were players sexually assaulted by coaches during your playing days?

There was sexual assault, but players didn’t really say it out as everybody was trying to save their heads because as soon as you said it, they might take you out of the team. But things like that couldn’t happen to some of us, especially me because if any coach tried anything funny with me, I would blow the whistle.NYSC Portal

This is as reported by the PUNCH newspaper

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Emediong Silver

Emediong Ekpe is a graduate of English. A professional Sports journalist/analyst, and a spoken word artist. He is passionate about decimating information and putting smiles on people's faces via news writing. Whatapp: 08088735884

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