After nearly six months without football Super Falcons captain Asisat Oshoala says she is overjoyed at the prospect of playing once again as her Barcelona Femeni side get set to confront great domestic rivals Atlético Madrid in Friday’s Champions League quarter-final in Bilbao.
With sporting activities in Spain suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Oshoala travelled to Nigeria where was spent the lockdown and the 25-year-old admits the unusually long period without away from the sport was a strange, difficult experience that left her with an immense craving for football in any form.
“When I was stuck indoors, I was just begging, OK, even if it’s just five-a-side, even if it’s three v three, just let me play,” Oshoala told The Guardian. “Football was something we had every day, something you don’t even realise is so important, but when you lose something you realise it really is. I really do appreciate my job more after lockdown, because I felt something went from me for four months. I wasn’t complete.
“Lockdown was really tough, I’m not going to lie. I live alone so it was that much more difficult for me. You have to do everything possible to make sure you’re in good health so I didn’t go out, I was so scared because I didn’t want to catch the virus. So I stayed indoors for about four months. On our first day back I was able to go out, to get on the pitch, to train with the girls, to see different people. It was like my birthday on that day.”
The four times African Women’s Footballer of the Year will hope to have more cause for celebration when she returns against Atlético for her first competitive fixture since February.
The former Arsenal and Liverpool forward joined Barcelona last January, initially on loan from Dalian Quanjian, and has been in exceptional form this season, scoring 20 goals in 19 appearances before lockdown including two in a 6-1 thrashing of Atlético in the league last September.
She also scored what proved to be the winner in a 3-2 cup win against the same opponents in February and would be looking to continue her scoring run against them later today.
Barcelona are favourites to progress but with Wolfsburg and Lyon, winners between them of eight of the past nine titles, still in the competition their task is formidable.
The Spanish side reached the final last season where Oshoala scored their only goal in a 4-1 defeat to Lyon and while the Nigerian striker would love to do one better this season, for now all she cares about is that football is back.
“I’m just really happy UEFA didn’t cancel the Champions League,” Oshoala says. “I’m really happy that football is back for us.”