The Super Falcons are the greatest women’s football team in Africa, and it is only normal for them to have produced so many great players.
Cynthia Uwak, Florence Omagbemi and Precious Dede are some of the big names to come out of Nigeria and Africa.
However, while these names are great players in their own right, none matches up to Mercy Akide and Perpetua Nkwocha.
Akide- Nigeria’s first superstar in Women’s football
In fact, it will not be an exaggeration to say Akide was the first true superstar in Women’s football in Nigeria.
During her career, she set different goalscoring records in the local league. The former Ufuoma Babes scored 16 league goals in 1993 and another eight in the Challenge Cup.
Akide continued to obliterate all records in the domestic leagues, but it was her performances for the National team that made her a superstar.
The former Nigeria international was the first recipient of the African Women Footballer of The Year in 2001.
She represented Nigeria at three FIFA Women’s World Cups and was a key figure in the squad that reached the quarter-final in 1999.
Also, Akide won three African Women’s Championships with the Super Falcons. In her prime, there was no one close. She was not just the face of women’s football in Nigeria but across Africa.
However, while Akide made the game popular in the country, Nkwocha took it to another level with her performances and achievements.
Perpetua Nkwocha’s raised the level of Women’s football in Nigeria
The 47-year-old represented Nigeria at eight CAF Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON), winning a record six times and finishing as the top scorer on three occasions.
On one of those occasions (2004), she scored nine goals, including four against Cameroon – a record that still stands today.
Nkwocha also represented Nigeria at four FIFA Women’s World Cups and three Olympic Football events, while she also won four CAF Women’s Player of the Year awards, which was a record at that time.
By the time Nkwocha retired from football in 2015, she had cemented her status as the greatest African women’s player of all time, and it was unfathomable to think her achievements would be matched or surpassed soon.
Oshoala- Nigeria’s first true global star in Women’s football
However, eight years after her retirement, another Nigerian by the name of Oshoala has matched, if not surpassed, Nwkwocha’s achievements.
Oshoala’s journey to surpassing her fellow countrywoman started a year before she retired. The 27-year-old’s breakout campaign came at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, where she finished as the tournament’s top scorer with seven goals.
After the competition, it was clear that Oshoala would be a threat to Nkwocha’s title. Her profile continued to rise that same year as she finished as Super Falcons’ second top scorer at the 2014 AWCON, which Nigeria won.
It is important to note that both Oshoala and Nkwocha were in the squad that won the competition in 2014, which made it seem like a passing of the baton.
Both players also represented Nigeria at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, but Oshoala outshined her older rival, who retired after the competition.
Although Nigeria failed to qualify for the knockout stages, Oshoala was one of the team’s scorers in the 3-3 draw against Sweden, which was the only game they picked up a point.
Following Nkwocha’s retirement, the spotlight was now on Oshoala, and it is something she has taken in her stride.
She has added two more continental titles to the one she won in 2014 while also playing at another World Cup.
However, Oshoala’s biggest individual achievement is winning five CAF Women’s Player of the Year awards – the most by a player, man or woman.
It is a remarkable achievement for the 28-year-old, considering the short time it took her to eclipse Nkwocha’s record.
And with Oshoala just 28, she is on course to make it six. But it is not just the CAF awards that put Oshoala ahead of her older rival.
For all her greatness at the international level, Nkwocha did not have a great club career. The ex-Super Falcons star played for just Sunnanå SK outside of Nigeria, scoring just 65 goals for the club.
In contrast, Oshoala has had a stellar club career since leaving the shores of the country in 2015. The 27-year-old has played for some of Europe’s top clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal, while she also had a successful stint in China.
Oshoala currently plays for Barcelona Femeni, who are the best club in the world right now. She won the treble with the club in the 2020/2021 campaign, and she was the club’s current top scorer in the 2021/2022 season with 23 goals in 25 games.
Although it could be argued that Nkwocha played at a time when women’s football was still growing, as many of these top European clubs did not have a women’s team, it still does not take away what Oshoala has achieved in a short period.
And also, considering their achievements and the fact that Oshoala still has many more years left, it is hard to deny that the Barcelona star has already cemented her status as the greatest women’s player to come out of Africa.
Nkwocha will always be known as the player that changed the level of women’s football in Africa, but Oshoala will be remembered as the player that took the game to an unprecedented height.