By Horaci Garcia and Fernando Kallas
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Women’s football is the future, Asisat Oshoala, Barcelona’s four-time African Footballer of the Year, told Reuters as her side look to cap a dream year by beating Lyon in the women’s Champions League final in Turin on Saturday.
After scoring 20 goals in 19 games this season to help Barcelona win the Spanish league with a perfect 30 wins from 30 games, Oshoala is delighted with the sport’s growth.
Barca broke the women’s attendance record twice in the last two Champions League home games. 91,648 fans turned out to see them defeat Wolfsburg 5-1 in their semi-final first leg on April 22nd.
It broke the previous women’s attendance record set three weeks earlier when 91,553 flocked to the Camp Nou for the showdown between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
“It’s amazing to see that in women’s football and I think that’s just the beginning. You just have to get used to it,” Oshoala told Reuters.
“We have to get used to it because we’re sick of the things people used to say about women’s football, all the prejudice.
“Interest is growing, we have more fans in the stadium, we sell shirts and more viewers on TV. As I’ve always said to people, women’s football is the future. You will have to get used to it.”
Nigeria’s Oshoala, 27, is Africa’s most successful female footballer, having scored at two World Cups and in a Champions League final – a late consolation in Barca’s 4-1 defeat by Lyon in 2019 – and the first woman on the continent to do so Spain claimed golden boot.
But she experienced a detour into the football elite.
Her parents almost denied her the opportunity to play soccer as they felt soccer was so unsuitable for their daughter that they forbade her from playing in the street with her friends.
Because of her struggles, she founded the Asisat Oshoala Foundation in 2018 to help young girls from across Africa pursue careers in sport.
“It was amazing, I think about my trip all the time. I thought about the things I went through as a young girl, the difficulties in convincing my parents and also that I didn’t have as many opportunities around me.
“I know the same situation still happens with girls around the world and I’m just trying to do my part… I know how difficult it was for me growing up. So I’m just trying to create more opportunities for these girls.”
Oshoala will have an opportunity on Saturday to avenge the loss to Lyon three years ago and she believes the team are ready to defend the title they won by beating Chelsea last season.
“Going into the finals is confident that it’s about the team and we have the best,” said Oshoala.
“Winning the Champions League with Barca last year was the highlight of my career, I want to repeat that.”
(Reporting by Horaci Garcia and Fernando Kallas in Spain.; Editing by Toby Davis)