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Rasheedat Ajibade: "I’m motivated by how much value I can add to others’ lives"

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Nigeria international Rasheedat Ajibade is preparing for her second Women’s World Cup. The Atletico Madrid striker is a member of FIFPRO’s Global Player Council.

By Rasheedat Ajibade

I started playing in the Nigerian Women’s Premier League when I was just 13 years old. There are a lot of challenges facing young women’s players in Nigeria, but overcoming those obstacles has shaped the player and person I am today at 23.

Growing up, girls who wanted to play football in Nigeria didn’t receive much support and their chance of success was limited. As a kid, my place was seen to be either at school, in the kitchen or doing a menial job – not being on the football pitch.

Having to deal with those societal barriers, though, made me resilient; it made me constantly push myself to be better, and ultimately be the person who I wanted to be. Whatever I was labelled as by society, I didn’t want that to be me. I didn’t want that to be my future.

When you don’t have that support system around you, you develop a mind-set that it’s you against the world. There’s a fear of failure because, if you lose, you’ll hear those voices saying, “I told you so”. So, you have two choices: win… or win.

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Rasheedat Ajibade celebrates with Atletico Madrid team-mates
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There is also little financial support for young women’s players in Nigeria: we don’t have the right facilities to train and we don’t have the right equipment.

The environment around you is not built for you to have a successful career – and sometimes in Nigeria we don’t see that because of the culture. Part of the Nigerian mentality is that you have to struggle, you have to suffer. It would be a lot better, though, if we just had the basic resources to help young girls with talent thrive.

As my career began to progress, I started to become more obsessed with growth, development, and learning – things that would add value to me. I wanted to pass on that same energy to the young ones coming up behind me, so I set up educational scholarships and football workshops that identify and promote grassroots talent, helping give young people opportunities to succeed. One of the scholarships, the Rash Tech Scholarship, provides free tech skills and training to 60 young people across Nigeria.

Success can be subjective. For me, it’s not about how much money you have – of course, if you have it, then enjoy it – it’s about what impact you pass onto other people; how much value you add to other people's lives. That’s the definition of success in my eyes. I was raised from nowhere, from nothing, and now I’m trying to be something. It’s all about appreciating what you have while trying to make a positive impact.

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Wanting to make a difference is what inspired me to join FIFPRO’s Global Player Council. I’m a curious person who is always asking questions and I would always be asking my team-mates questions. It was from conversations with other players about contracts that I got to know about FIFPRO and the work they do.

I know what players go through with their contract because some of us coming from Africa don’t always ask the right questions when it comes to contracts. Instead, the mentality can be: ‘Just let me travel, I don't care. Whatever they give me, I don't care. Even if I have to sleep on the floor, I don't care’.

When that happens, players can be taken advantage of, especially by agents. As footballers, there’s information we need to know off the pitch as well as on it. That’s why a player union like FIFPRO is so important in our sport.

I’m preparing for my second senior World Cup and I’m so excited to be part of this Super Falcons team at Australia/New Zealand 2023. The rapid growth in women's football right now is incredible and this World Cup will be a huge step in the right direction of the sport.

With four African teams competing now, this is a big opportunity for our continent on the global stage. It will be tough, but it will be business as usual.

My team-mates and I will be doing everything we can to make Nigeria and Africa proud.