By Tana Aiyejina
Athlético FC d’Abidjan versatile midfielder Favour Kalu, 18, talks about her career challenges on-and-off the pitch, playing abroad and her football dreams, in this exciting interview with ‘TANA AIYEJINA
Recently you helped Ivorian champions Athletico to a third-place finish in the WAFU qualifiers for the CAF Champions League. How did you feel?
I’ll start by saying God’s the greatest. I’m so excited that I’ve finally become a CAF player because it is a dream come true for me. I never knew a day like that would come because I was dropped from Bayelsa Queens in June last year, a month before the CAF Champions League preparations. At that point, that dream of becoming a CAF medalist was shattered. But God being who He is, made it come through again. All Glory to God Almighty for this great opportunity and the beginning of greater achievements in my career.
Has it been easy settling down in Ivory Coast in terms of the language, food and environment?
About that, it hasn’t been easy for me at all but I’m a strong girl and I’ve come to terms with it, that it’s part of life and hustling. So, I have no choice than to cope in everyway I can.
How do you communicate with your teammates in Abidjan?
(Laughs) It’s actually funny how we communicate. Sometimes I get to do some hand or face gestures for them to understand what I’m saying at that moment, likewise them, and I understand a little bit of French.
Parents usually kick against their daughters playing football. Did your parents support you?
(Laughs) It’s a long story but I’ll make it short. At first it wasn’t easy at all, but later on they gave their support because it was obvious that I wasn’t going to stop playing football for anything. So, they gave up and decided to support me in everyway they could.
How did you fall in love with football?
Can’t really tell, but football has been something I loved doing even as a child. And God blessed me with the gift of playing football, so, it was something I fell in love with right from my mother’s womb.
Was it easy when you started?
It wasn’t easy at all and I faced a lot of challenges. It was really terrible especially in camp because most times there won’t be food to eat, water to bathe, good clothes to wear, kits to play football and all of that. Sometimes, guys harassed me, wanting to sleep with me before they helped me or do anything for me, but I never allowed it to happen. Most times coaches and teammates would want to take advantage of me because to them I’m too beautiful to be a footballer, but thank God for where I am today.
So, the coaches also wanted to sleep with you?
Yeah, both male and female coaches back then, even till now, but I won’t call names. It wasn’t easy at all but God helped me through those times and till now He’s still helping me.
What are your best and worst moments as a footballer?
I don’t really have worst moments though a lot of things happened to me on my way up. But I’ll say my worst moment was when I was dropped from Bayelsa Queens just few weeks to CAF Champions League qualifiers. I’ve really been through a lot, like real tough moments but I had never been dropped in my whole life since I started playing football. So, it came as a surprise to me, though I wasn’t that bitter about the whole thing because at that moment I knew I was getting closer to my destination because I was created for greatness. My best moment so far as a footballer is participating and winning a third-place medal in the Women’s CAF Champions League qualifiers for the first time in my career.
There’s this impression that most women footballers are lesbians. Do you agree?
Yes I agree totally with that. I’m not trying to be judgemental but will say it the way it is. The thing there is that some people are naturally spoilt in the sense that if they misbehave or do something bad they’ll either pin it on bad friends or condition. A lot of people who are into lesbianism are always quick to blame it on the devil, bad friends or condition of life. But the truth is that somethings we do are the choices we’ve made already and sometimes it’s in us already but we’re just looking for something or someone to push us into it. And lesbianism is demonic that once you start it, you’ll never be able to come out of it. Like they say, some girls started it out of fear of getting pregnant while playing football, some started it in order to be able to take care of themselves and some are in it because they see it as fun because they prefer their fellow girls to guys.
What is the reaction of the society to women footballers?
On this, I think we are in the era where women footballers are gradually making waves and a lot of people globally are recognising women footballers, although so many people still think that women footballers are nothing but losers. They think women footballers are illiterate, like they have nothing to offer.
Do you think women footballers are properly taken care of like their male counterparts?
(Laughs) I’m sorry for laughing but no, they don’t care about us like they do for the guys, especially Nigeria my country, where people don’t value female footballers like the whites do.
Then what are the major challenges of women footballers compared to the men?
They face difficulties when it comes to buying menstrual pads, play on empty stomachs and so forth. There’s also menstrual pains, some players find it hard to play with it, while some ladies can actually play with it, though it’s very painful to bear. Male and female coaches always threaten players to sleep with them in order to feature them in matches. Sometimes, men take advantage of female footballers that go to them for financial assistance, especially for kits, food and accommodation.
How soon do you hope to play football in Europe?
Very soon by God’s grace I’ll play there but with my hope and faith in God, I’ll say before next year I’ll get a bigger and better offer. But before then, I’ll keep working hard, it’s not going to be easy, but God will do it.
Falcons put in a great performance at the last Women’s World Cup. Do you think you can break into the squad anytime soon?
Yeah, why not? I’ve got the talent and I have God by my side. With hard work, I’ll get there someday, that’s if it’s God’s plan for me, because you know God’s plans can be different from ours and it might even be another country that I’ll eventually represent.
So, if Ivory Coast invites you, will you play for them?
No, because it’s an African country but if one day I get invited by France, I’ll definitely play for them
How would you compare football in Ivory Coast and Nigeria?
Nigerian football is better organised than Ivorian football but they are better than Nigerian football in terms of opportunities to play abroad.
Who is your role model footballer?
I don’t have a role model but I love everything about Ronaldo, especially the fact that he’s a hard worker and doesn’t have any tattoo on his body because I hate tattoos a lot.