A former National U-17 female team, the Flamingoes midfielder, Abdulkareem Ramat Ohunene who just signed a contract extension with Turkish top-flight Adana Idmanyurduspor has said she will give her best for the club to win laurels. In this interview with Trust Sports, the versatile player who played for Nasarawa United, Adamawa Queens, Abia Angels and Confluence Queens of Lokoja before moving to Europe in 2019 also spoke on her Super Falcons ambition and the state of female football in Nigeria.
How did you start your football career?
My name is Abdulkareem Ramat Ohunene: With the full support of my late dad, I started football when I was in primary 3. May his soul rest in peace. He was very supportive when I started. Unfortunately, when he passed on, I stopped playing football for some time. We then relocated to Hayin Banki, in Kaduna North Local government, in Kaduna. At that point I started another sport which was athletics because I could not find where to continue with my football training at that time. I even went for National Sport Festival as 100 meters runner and I also did high jump. I later joined Pepsi Academy at Murtala Square Kaduna to continue with my football career. That was how I stopped athletics and went back to football. I was determined to succeed in football so I refused to be weighed down by the challenges I faced. Since then, I have never looked back and here I am today. I thank God I am getting better in my chosen profession.
Apart from your father, did you enjoy the support of other members of your family?
You will agree with me that from where I started my football career, it is always difficult for the girl-child to get the necessary support to participate in sports. I am lucky that my case was different. To answer your question, I enjoyed the full support of every member of my family. The moment my dad gave his approval, there was no dissenting voice.
How was it like playing football in the midst of boys?
(Smiles) Well, it was definitely not easy and very competitive. But it helped me a lot. I became toughened and more confident. I learnt a lot from the boys, especially those who were older than me.
You played for Nigerian clubs and you are now in the Turkish league. What is the difference between the league in Nigeria and Turkey?
There is a very big difference between the Nigerian league and the Turkish league. The standard of the league in Turkey and even the weather is different and good. One significant thing I must mention here is the quality of facilities in Europe. They are far ahead of us.
Now that you have extended your contract with Adana Idmanyurduspor, what are your expectations?
For the president of the club to hand over the jersey number 10 to me, I know what it means. My immediate ambition is to start playing. I just want to get on to the field, play and showcase what I can offer. I want to help the team to be at the top of the league and also make a name for myself, family and friends. I am very much ready for the next challenge. So I am ready to go all out and give my best in the new season for Idmanyurduspor to win titles.
What was your experience playing for the Flamingoes?
Well, playing in the youth team was very interesting. Before my invitation to the junior team, I had a brief stint in the senior national team. No feeling can be compared with playing for any of the national teams. I enjoyed every bit of it.
Having played for the junior national team, how soon do you hope to play for the Super Falcons?
One of my biggest aims is to play for the Super Falcons. It is one of my biggest targets. I have played at the junior level with the U17. But in as much as I want to play for the National Team, I really don’t want to put too much pressure on myself to force myself in. I believe there is time for everything. And I am sure with God, dedication and hard work, my time will come. And when it comes, I will grab it fully. But for now, I just want to enjoy the game, play well and help my team.
How satisfied are you with the growth of female football in Nigeria?
Our league is gradually improving with the help of the Chairperson, Aisha Folade. But there is still room for improvement. The league needs more sponsors and more focus especially in the area of welfare of the players. A situation where by more attention is paid to male players won’t augur well for female football in the country.
In concrete terms what are your expectations from the NFF in terms of female football development?
My passionate appeal to the football federation is that they should encourage upcoming female football players. I believe that if they are given the necessary encouragement, the best in them would come out for the good of the country. Nigeria is blessed with abundant talents but nothing will be achieved, if such talents are not properly harnessed.
Who is your role model?
Former Super Falcons captain, Rita Chikwelu is my role model among Nigerian female players and I have Luka Modric of Real Madrid as my model on the international scene.
Before you left to play in Europe, how many professional clubs did you play for in Nigeria?
I played for Nasarawa Amazons in 2013 season. I then played for Adamawa Queens in 2014 and 2015 seasons. I moved to play for Abia Angels in 2016 and then Confluence Queens of Lokoja in 2017. From Confluence Queens, I moved to Europe to join Adana Idmanyurduspor in the Turkish league.
Which season was your best and why?
Despite not playing many matches due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the past season was my best in the Turkish league. But the few matches I played, I was so impressed with them all and I am satisfied. Out of four matches, I scored two goals and gave one assist.
Do you have any regret choosing football over other sports?
No regret at all. Football has given me and my family a name. It has also helped me to gain the confidence I need to face the world and its challenges. I am happy that I settled for football and there is no regret. I am enjoying myself.
What is your message to your teeming fans?
My message to my fans is for them to keep supporting me with their prayers. They mean a lot to me and I appreciate them all.