By MONICA IHEAKAM
The death of a spouse or significant other is an earth-shattering event that brings incomprehensible grief. Your partner was, after all, the person with whom you shared your dreams and built your life on, the person you loved more than life itself.
In the case of ex- Super Falcons’ goalkeeper, Taiwo Ajobiewe Asikogu, the loss of her loving husband; Amaechi Christopher Asikogu to the cold hands of death just after 8 years of marriage is a heart-breaking journey.
The young Yoruba girl, who found her soul mate in the vibrant and promising young Amaechi, an Igbo man from Ogbaku in Imo State, saw her dreams shatter around her and already pregnant for their third child, the trauma swept life’s certainties from under her feet.
In this interview with Daily Sun sports, the National Under-20 Women team (Falconets) goalkeeper trainer just back from the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan, where Nigeria’s Falconets finished 4th in the Championship, spoke of her life as a footballer, coach, widow and single mother of three healthy and wonderful children.
I came into goalkeeping by accident and not by choice. I was a table tennis and volleyball player in Ondo State. I will say I started playing football at the age of 10 because I was always kicking the ball around with boys who were in my age bracket. In 1993, I came to the National Stadium in Surulere and saw some girls training, I was fascinated and approached the coach, that was how I joined the Indomitable Tigress Football Club, coached by Alexandra Kessna Harrod. I started playing as a winger (7) or sometimes as a striker (9) positions.
One day, our two goalkeepers were down with injury and I volunteered to man the post. After that incident, my coach came and talked to me that I was better in goal keeping because even as a player, I didn’t have much speed and that was how it all started. The next year, 1994, I was invited to the National team to prepare for the Sweden’95 Women’s World Cup and I stayed in the national team till 2001.
How you met your Husband
Actually in 1996 when I met my late husband, Amaechi, marriage was not on my mind. Then he was a youth cooper with the National Sports Commission and they were lodged at the Games Village. That was where I met him because I followed my teammates to the place after training and he saw me and we got talking. He was my No.1 fan, always supporting me to excel in football. He was the one that encouraged me to go for a coaching course at the National Institute for Sports (NIS).
My mother was already despairing because my twin sister, Kehinde was married and I was still single. Interestingly, my twin was married to an Igbo man and she was well taken care of by her husband. So, when Amaechi started coming around, my mother was happy but she was also afraid that I could not cook the Igbo dishes, but my husband assured her that it wouldn’t be a problem because he would teach me how to cook.
I remember that he bought an execise book for me where I recorded how the different dishes especially ‘Ofe Owerri’ is made, one of my team mates, Adanna Nwaneri was also teaching me on how to prepare such foods. We courted for 6 years before we got married in 2002 and had my first baby that same year.
Barriers in Marrying an Igbo man
There were no barriers. My husband’s family accepted me with open arms. My husband understands and speaks Yoruba fluently; don’t forget his secondary school was at Ikorodu High School. Then it was a joke about me understanding the Igbo language and every body’s verdict was that I must learn the language by force.
The family I married into is a wonderful and supportive one and honestly, Igbo’s know how to take care of their wives.
Life as a widow and mother
Life never prepares anyone to be a widow or widower. When your husband dies young, it pulls one of life’s certainties from under you, and you begin to question God for everything else. Because you are young, people expect you to get over it quickly. They think you will be better after a few months. But it is a major, major life change.
“Amaechi died at 47. He was full of life, wasn’t sick. The day he died, he even went out to buy newspapers and when he came back while reading, he started gasping for breath. We rushed to take him to a hospital and on our way he gave up the ghost. The shock and pain was unbearable. The biggest difficulty is feeling that I have been robbed the rest of my life. Yes, time does heal but no one can replace Amaechi in my life.
I was pregnant for my third child when my husband died and when I gave birth, it was a boy and I named him Amaechi Christopher after his father because I know that my husband has come back to console me.
I have no plans to remarry because nobody can take the place of Amaechi in my life. I have three wonderful Children that God blessed our marriage with and they are my husbands.
The only regret I have is that Amaechi is no more but I am consoled that God has not and will not forsake my Children and I.
Life has taught me to be hard working. A wife must have something to do; you don’t have to rely on whatever income your husband brings home. Self-sufficiency helps. My husband laid that foundation by encouraging me to aim higher by having a life after playing football.
The period after the death of a spouse or partner is very difficult, acknowledges Asikogu. She doesn’t pretend that it is easy at times, but says that there are wonderful people around her especially her husband’s family and her own family members, that have their own little gestures of kindness helped her in taking care of her young children.
I want to use this opportunity to thank my Cousin, Kemi, she has been a God sent to me. Throughout the four months that I was in the national camp with the Under-20 women team, she was the one staying with my children.
When I came back from the FIFA World Cup in Japan, my Son was running away from me. It took us two weeks before he allowed me to touch him.
Limitations on Women goalkeepers and Lessons from Japan 2012
Women goalkeepers are not different from their male counterparts. There are no limitations on them because the game is the same and the rules in football would not be changed or modified for their sake.
Women goalkeepers undergo the same training as the male. The only limitation is that women are not paid as well as the men get and that is an area I think should be looked into because it would encourage the women.
The World Cup in Japan was an interesting one for me in particular as a coach. It was very unfortunate that we could not meet our set target, which was to better the 2010 runner up result and win the Cup. On the whole, everybody gave a good account of themselves, from the coaches to the players and other support staff that were with the Falconets during the Championship.
Dream career outside football
I would love to be a journalist because I like writing a lot. I would like to run documentaries on women football. Already, I have got several scripts that I have written about the women’s game. Maybe one day, I will have the funds to make it become a reality.