Despite being left out of the squad to face COTE ‘ÍVOIRE in the forthcoming 2020 OLYMPIC QUALIFIER billed for ABIDJAN, veteran defender, ONOME EBI, is confident the Super Falcons can overcome their IVORIAN counterparts in the third round of the qualifying series to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Record nine-time African champions, Nigeria, are seeking a return to the quadrennial event since their last appearance in 2008 in Beijing, which EBI, then 25-years old featured.

However, they will have to overcome the Ivorian hurdle in a back-to-back encounter to reach the penultimate round of the qualifiers.

The first leg is due for Abidjan on Thursday and the return match in Lagos on Monday.

Thirty-six 36 years  old  EBI who hit a milestone last July as the first African to play in five FIFA World Cups following her appearances at the 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 editions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, believes her storied career would further get a facelift if she can eventually make her second appearance at the Olympic next year in Tokyo at the twilight of her career.

“As a footballer, you have to be ready for big games such as the upcoming match against Cote d’Ivoire.

“We (Super Falcons) know that this fixture is going to be tough,” the China-based Ebi who was not selected by caretaker coach Chris Danjuma for the crunch encounter against Cote d’Ivoire”, she  told CAFONLINE.COM

Despite being left of the squad for the Ivorian two-legged affair, EBI  says she will be following with keen interest as she keeps her eyes on her dream of playing at yet another Olympics.

“We have worked hard to reach this round and we must be ready to put everything into the games against Cote d’Ivoire because victory will take us a step closer to Tokyo.”

EBI is still nostalgic about her first Olympic experience in the Far East. 

According to her “It was definitely a great feeling to have played at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Apart from the opportunity of playing against top stars from around the world, it was also an opportunity to meet top starts from different sports,” noted the famous lady at the heart of the Nigerian defence, currently with Henan Huishang in the Chinese Women’s Super League.

“It was also a special experience for me relating with stars from different countries at the Games Village and this is something I will like to experience again with the Super Falcons in Tokyo.”

EBI is one of the most experienced players to have donned the SUPER FALCONS shirt with varied experiences with clubs in SWEDEN, TURKEY and BELARUS where she was decorated with the Belarusian Women’s Premier League, The Belarusian Women’s Cup and the BELARUSIAN WOMEN’S SUPER CUP twice.

At the continental level, EBI has also been one of the pillars of the Super Falcons and has been at every edition of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations since 2008, and winning the title on four occasions – 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2018.

“One of the best moments of my career was winning the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations title for the first time in 2010. The second thing that came close to that happened at the last FIFA Women’s World Cup in France where I became the first player to appear in five FIFA World Cups and I feel so honoured.” 

EBI was honoured in April as Nigeria Women’s Player of the Year ahead of her pals ASISAT OSHOALA and FRANCISCA ORDEGA and opined that her steadfastness coupled with penchant to sleep deeply before strutting her stuff on the pitch have accounted largely for her career’s longevity. 

“I would say football chose me but my parents did not want me to play football initially,” revealed EBI who was audacious to pick herself and Argentine legend, Lionel Messi as her favourite footballers.

“But I had to prove to my parents that I could combine playing football with my education by ensuring I had good grades in my studies; and they had no choice than to support me love for football.

“Of course, other things that have kept me going is that I try to eat healthy train well; stayed focus; mind my business and the most important thing is that I tried to get enough rest by ensuring that I sleep very well playing any match.”

EBI who made name with  OMIDIRAN BABES and BAYELSA QUEENS on the Nigerian domestic scene before travelling abroad in 2009 to JOIN PITEA IF in SWEDEN’S DAMALLSVENSKAN, said Nigerian women’s football needs retooling for the country to maintain her prominence on the continent.

“I think the standard of women football in Nigeria is getting better,” she affirmed.

“But we can’t compare such standard with what we have outside the country; I’m looking forward to establishing a foundation to help younger ones to be exposed to better ways of playing the game.” she concluded.