How football took me from street to Sweden

How football took me from street to Sweden


By Taiwo Alimi
AYINDE: My brothers tried to stop my soccer dream

The story of Super Falcons strong midfielder Halimatu Ayinde is compelling.  Born to mix parentage of Yoruba and Igbo and born and bred in Kaduna, a core Northern state of Nigeria, Ayinde chose a part not too familiar and popular as a young girl growing up in a conservative environment.  She was interested in football and because there were not many girls ready to kick with her, she opted to play with boys. In a strict environment where girl-children are traditionally not heard but stayed home, the outgoing Ayinde wanted more than anything unrestricted access to football. And for her to indulge in the round leather game, she must be on the streets like the boys.

Interestingly, her father a retired military officer did not stand against her wish and neither did her mum.  Halimatu, however, met with stumbling blocks on the part of her brothers- all six of them having born into a familiar of 10-parents, six boys and two girls.

Growing up in the midst of six brothers, she said proved bittersweet for her as his brothers, hell bent on watching over her, overdid it.

They could not bear to see her play football in a predominantly boys team discouraging her on several occasions but she stuck to her mission.

She said: “I grew up in the midst of men six boys and two girls, and all my play mates were boys, everything about my growing was with boys, always playing street football with them. When I decided I was going to play football actively I didn’t have any challenges with either of my parents because my dad is a retired military man so he understood with me going into sport, my obstacles then was my brothers, they believed football was meant for boys and not girls so they did not want me to play with the boys in my street. So most times I hide to play football with my ‘boyfriends.’

The pastime grew to become a passion for her and as she kept going to the streets playing football her brothers relaxed and allowed her pursue her dream.

“Most of the time we organise a street by street football matches and I was always the only girl amongst them, then one faithful day I was with my friends playing football and a guy walked up to me after training and said, he knew two academies here in Kaduna that could take me in. The first is Pepsi Academy at Murtala Square, which trains both boys and girls and the other one is at Ahmadu Bello Stadium, YSFON Academy. He said he will like to take me there and play.

“To cut the long story short, I began to train with both academies because Pepsi trains on Saturdays while YSFON trains on Mondays and Saturdays but sometimes I skip Saturdays with YSFON for Pepsi. The guy actually motivated me and helped me achieve that passion I long had for the game. That was how I left the street to academy.”

So, began the journey that would take Halimatu to the pinnacle of the game. She started her professional career with Nasarawa Amazons in 2009 and quickly moved onto the Nigeria top female football side Delta Stars where she was spotted by the national team handlers.

Halimatu has played for all cadres of national teams; from the U17 to U20 and now the Super Falcons. She was part of the Nigeria U20 that made runners up at the 2014 U20 Women’s World Cup. She also has two African Women’s Championship gold medals on her shelve and to cap it up has played in top leagues of the world from U.S.A, Albania and Sweden.

Halimatu said she had the ever bolstering Kaduna sporting arena to thank for her success.

“In Kaduna, it wasn’t strange maybe in some part of northern states, but back then in Kaduna we have different local female teams like Police Machine, Quest, YSFON Academy, Grey international,  Nasarawa ladies, Pepsi Academy and Waheed Babes. Waheed babes were the ones playing in the premier league then. So it was never strange in Kaduna, although not much support is coming for these teams.”

Halimatu speaks more on related issues. Excerpts:

You are born in Kaduna to Igbo mother and Yoruba father, how did that make you feel?

I feel that it just simply makes me a complete Nigerian. It’s such a great privilege.

Does that mean you speak Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba?

Not really and funny that I can’t even speak any of them fluently.

At what point did you decide to do football all the way?

Basically, I was playing it for the fun of it because of the passion I had for the game but then I began to take it seriously when I joined the Nasarawa Amazons in 2009, from there the love for the game grew stronger, that was when I knew I was in for it and ready for business.

In five years, you have played club football in the U.S, Belarus and Sweden, why that?

It’s just normal for the changes in football worldwide and also fun to travel worldwide and learn different culture and gain experiences.

You have also evolved from the Nigeria U17, U20 to the Super Falcons, are you fulfilled and could you share your experiences so far?

Any female footballer who has travelled in a career journey as mine should be proud of herself because it takes hard work, consistency and focus to achieve all of this. I’m proud of myself so far and have had great experiences with all the teams I’ve been involved in. It’s not easy; everything was achieved by the grace of God.

How do you unwind?

I just relax, eat, drink water, play music and stop thinking about work or problems

Having come this far in your career, what do you think of the growth of women’s football in the Northern part of Nigeria?

Women football in the north has not been given the attention due to it, all concentrations are on the men, most great female footballers are giving up on their dreams because they feel they are just wasting their time, and it’s not supposed to be so. I urge every state in the north to please help these girls that want to become professionals someday achieve their dream. Female football in the north should be given opportunity to grow and enable the girls in it striving to be world class players achieve their dreams

How do you hope the women’s game will grow in the northern region in spite of the religion and culture?

I want the northern region to allow any girl child that has passion for football to pursue their dreams by giving women football the support and attention it needs to explore in the northern region, even while practicing their religion. Nowadays, a Muslim can even still play football with hijab and achieve their dreams.

Do you have any projects in mind and words to parents in the North to encourage their girl child in football?

Yes, I have a lot in mind to do in Kaduna but too early to disclose yet.  They are mostly centered on grassroots awareness on football for girls. To northern parents, always support your girl child in whatsoever her dreams are, don’t discourage or stop them because you don’t know what the future holds for them.

What are your football dreams in the next five years and major career targets before retirement?

The future is bright and I’m hoping to win trophies with any team I will be with.

Do you still have a dream club and what attracts to the team?

I’m just going to focus on the Swedish league now since I still have an ongoing contract with Eskilstuna and not keen talking about leaving for now.

Source: Sports – Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics

#football #street #Sweden

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