In the month of March for International Women’s Day, women were celebrated all over the world—also using the opportunity to advocate for more women leadership positions in sport. Nigerian international and Robo Queens of Lagos striker, Gift Monday, believes it is worth every effort in combining education and professional sports if women can sustain the push towards equal representation in sports leadership.
Building a lasting career as a sportsman is not just dependent on the number of active sports participations, but rather what an athlete does after said career, which is why the advocacy for athlete education has gained traction—a course championed by FISU.
Nineteen-year-old Gift believes that the prospect of a future where equity in sports participation and leadership can be achieved in Africa—also worth the effort and sometimes struggles of combining education and sport.
“Well, education is important to female footballers in a sense that football for ladies is a short term career, in which we’ll have to fall back on our certificate to earn a living and not become liabilities to family, loved ones and society,” said Gift. “This is why through managing education and football for me have never been an easy task, but because I was bent on achieving my goal of becoming an educated sportsperson, I have to go through the stress and all”.
According the striker, a strong support system is the base for any sustainable achievement for young girls to play football. For most girls, the challenge of gaining support starts from the families to the society, which in general is a hurdle that continues to undermine female participation in sports.
“I think the greatest challenge most athletes are facing today is that they lack the support of a true fan—that person that will stand by them during their good and bad times that will not only support your dreams, but your efforts even when they cannot see it. To get support when you are in form and when things are rough, and not be criticised”.
Citing the need for support from the government and private bodies in the development of university sports in Nigeria, Gift has also called for an all-inclusive participation policy from the Nigerian University Games Association that can encourage more diverse participation in its system.
“Winning the All-African Games was a dream come true for me and I appreciate my teammates and officials for their determination and dedication to achieving that goal while I will endeavor to keep giving my best whenever I’m opportuned to represent my country of Nigeria,” said the teenager who earned a spot on the senior side of the Nigerian women’s national football team after leading the Falconets to a quarter-final place at the 2018 FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
“I hope to one day inspire others in knowing that you do not have to choose between education and sport—we can have it all,” concluded Gift, also the team captain of the first winning Nigerian team in 12 years for the All-African Games.
As Gift looks ahead, she is making the most of her considerable ascent at FC Robo, drawing motivation from some of the greats such as Chidinma Okeke (Real Madrid defender), Rasheedat Ajibade (Athletico Madrid striker), along with four-time African Women’s Footballer of the Year and Barcelona Famine striker, Asisat Oshoala.