EXCLUSIVE: My only desire is to play for Nigeria – US-born Falconets striker Sophia Omidiji

The FC Eindhoven striker has been called up for Nigeria's Fifa U20 Women’s WC qualifiers and shares her aspirations and what it meant to make her debut in the country's colours

FC Eindhoven of Holland striker Omidiji Sophia, who was recently called up for Nigeria's Fifa U20 Women's World Cup qualifiers by coach Peter Dedevbo, spoke exclusively with Goal after the Falconets’ victory against DR Congo in Abuja on Saturday.  She relishes bringing her speed, strength and killer instincts in front of goal to bear.

In this interview, the 18-year-old, who was snapped up by the Eredivisie women outfit in August 2015 from the USA, hopes to impress even better than Courtney Dike did at the 2014 Fifa U20 Women's World Cup in Canada. Omidiji netted a record 38 goals in her final season with Las Vegas Premier Sports Academy before she sealed her move to Holland. Now she's got the chance to play for her fatherland, the elated US-born Nigerian had this attention-grabbing chat with Goal’s correspondent Samuel Ahmadu.

Goal: Can you tell us about yourself and your family background?

Sophia Omidiji: I'm 18. I was born on June 18, 1997 and raised in the United States and currently play for FC Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Nothing I have accomplished in life so far comes close to wearing those colours and I intend to make the nation proud. My father Lateef Omidiji was born and raised in Lagos, but is an indigene of Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria while my grandfather- Bili is also an indigene of Abeokuta, Ogun State but was born and raised in Iju Ota in Ado/Ota Local Government Area. My middle name is Omotola and I've got three younger brothers - Lateef Jr, Rasheed and Amir. I've been playing since I was 6. I played for Las Vegas Premier Sports Academy from 2013-2015. In August this year, I got signed up by FC Eindhoven women team in the Netherlands after going on trial with Ado Den Haag Vroumen team. I'm yet to play for FC Eindhoven due to my call-up to the national team after I signed for the club. I'm expected back in Holland after the U20 Women's World Cup qualifiers.

Goal: You will be playing alongside top-rated Nigerian players like Chinwedu Ihezuo and others, are you ready to prove yourself as a quality striker among them?

SO: I joined the team in September and it's been the greatest honour of my life. I see myself getting better and improving with every practice and training. What I'll bring are the skills I learned in the States, mixed with the technical skills my Dutch coach emphasizes and the teaching of coach Peter Dedevbo and the other great coaches we have on the team.  I've shown in training that I'm strong, not afraid of the physical part of the game. I'm just as fast and I'm very technical, because I'm a short player, my coaches in the tates focused on the technical part of my game, tactical as well so I'm confident that I will be an asset to the team. Chinwendu is a great player as evidenced with her goal tally - I've often told her that she can play anywhere in the world because she's that good.

Goal: How did you secure an invitation and why did you accept to play for the Nigeria?

SO: I received a call-up from the Nigeria Football Federation as someone within the organization had seen me play. Loved the way I play - small player yes but technical, fast and great finisher and I believe I can contribute to the success of this great team because this great nation deserves a World Cup trophy. 

Goal: What influenced your choice of playing for Nigeria?

SO: What influenced my joining the Falconets is my love for Nigeria. It is my love for my fatherland and my desire to serve Nigeria. There are many Nigerians abroad that choose to play with the country they were born in. But for me, I've had only one desire and that's to play for the greatest nation on earth and that's Nigeria. I am here now, hopefully my practice and play gets me the opportunity to play and when I start to play, hope I impress, but I am very confident in my abilities and the coaches I've had over the years.

Goal: Tell us about your club career and move to FC Eindhoven?

SO: I played high school football for Sierra Vista High School from 2011-2014 becoming the all-time leading goal scorer for the school and leading the school to the playoffs in every year I played at the school including the school's first ever regional/State/NIAA Southern Nevada final. And I also played for Las Vegas Premier Sports Academy from 2013-2015. I had a chance to play college in the United States, even received a few offers in Canada but recieved a few offers in Europe from Ado den Haag in Holland to KAA Gent in Belgium. I accepted to go for FC Eindhoven to develop myself, compete and feature in UEFA women club competitions.

Goal: How do you find your teammates and U20 women national team's head coach in the Falconets?

SO: Wow, those are my sisters, the coaches are my uncles. I'm an only girl in my family. I have gained new sisters. Coach Peter I think is one of the best I've ever worked with. My coaches in Holland are former Dutch internationals with all sorts of licenses, my coach in the United States is also highly respected but coach Peter hands down is the best I've ever worked with. I'm a Lagos girl. My dad is a Lagos man, my grandparents although originally from Abeokuta are Lagos people too, so they taught me the mentality early and visiting Lagos as we have homes there has made me tough. I love the look on their faces on day one when they saw this American-born Nigerian throw down pounded yam and efo [vegetable soup]. I grew up on 'okele' [swallow meals], love jollof, eba, iyan, amala. My grandmother and mom put that as a must on the menu.

Goal: Who are your Nigerian women role models since you've been following in the country's football?

SO: Mercy Akide, she's an idol and she's amazing. She is a legend. I have never met her nor do I know her, I just admire her. I'm old school, yes we have great players like [Asisat] Oshoala on the national team but I love our pioneers. 

Goal: How much do you know about Nigeria - its culture and people?

SO: If you ask a kid of my age who their favourite musician is, they'll say Wizkid and Eldee and I love those guys too but I'm greatly influenced by my dad and grandpa who love Barrister and Kollington. So I love the old school and love to give credit to those that paved the way, just as you can't mention Nigerian football without talking about Rasheed Yekini. Every year when I come to Lagos with my family, I see opposite of what they paint us abroad. I see hardworking people. I see God-fearing people. I see people who are very passionate about the sport that I love. I see people that are very passionate about our great country. 

Goal: How are you looking forward to your first cap if given a chance to play in the final round of the qualifier against South Africa?

SO: I believe I can compete with any girl I've ever played with if given an opportunity. First immediate task is to qualify for the World Cup because nothing would be greater than qualifying and bringing smiles to my people and we're being prepared for that. Then win the U20 Women's World Cup. The goal isn't to participate, but the goal is to win. And I know we have the coaching staff, experienced and amazing players and the support of the nation.

Goal: What was your assessment of your team's performance in the second leg, second round qualifier against DR Congo last weekend at the National Stadium, Abuja?

SO: Absolutely, I was satisfied with the way we played. Our defence was amazing; our goalkeeper impeccable, our midfield controlled the game and our strikers and attackers did amazing. You know back in the days, we would run over most teams in Africa but African teams are starting to catch up, there are no easy games even for our men so we did great and all credit is due to the coaching staff.

Goal: What will you tell your teammates going into the final round of the qualifying series and World Cup?

SO: In the final round, I think as long as we play to our coach's instructions and don't forget our head coach is a FIFA coach of the year nominee, so the pedigree is there, if we play to our coach's instructions, no team can stop us. Same at the World Cup, where we have Europe, Asia and the Americas waiting on us as long as we play to the instructions of the very capable coach Peter - we will achieve our aims. We have the players with experience from U17 and U20 World Cup and we have the coaches. And we have the support of 170 million Nigerians- by the grace of God, we will do you proud. Coach Peter and his staff are the best coaches I've ever worked with. We dominate every country in Africa, we just need to start dominating the world.

Goal: What are your long term plans as a female football player with great potentials and prospect?

SO: When I'm done with playing football, I want to give back to my country. My long term goal is to own a professional women team in Nigeria. I'm going to take coaching classes in England and get licensed as a UEFA coach, get USSF licenses and coach at some point in the future.