By: Koku Morayo, Victor Chijoke, Olaomo Owooluwa, Ajayi Oluwatoyin, and Afolayan Ithiel.
‘It is in tough times that tough ones rise’. The UNILAG Angels have once again proven this saying to be true emerging as winners in the female football category at the recently concluded Nigerian Universities Games Association (NUGA) games hosted by the University of Lagos. They finished strong in the final game as they defeated their opponent, the University of Calabar (UNICAL), on a scoreline of 3 goals to 2. Although the game began on a tough note, they never gave up.
Training started for NUGA as soon as it was announced in 2018 and had been slated to be held in UNILAG with a team of 22 players. Oluwatofehinti Ojo, better known as O’Jay to teammates and fans, was named Captain of the team. During the tournament, O’Jay got a free-kick and scored a total of five goals earning the appellation, “Asisat Oshoala of Unilag” in the finals.
The Angels’ highest goal scorer, Olasubomi Ogundele scored a total of 10 goals for the team and was duly awarded for it.
Another key member of the team was Olawunmi Akintola who played the number 8, creative midfielder position and scored four goals.
Rating their preparations ahead of the games on a scale of 1-10, the players rated themselves above 8. O’Jay recalled that by the end of the pandemic, the majority of them were out of shape but with dedication and consistent training, they were able to snap back.
Subomi would have rated the team’s preparation a perfect 10 but admitted that they had their errors. She however added that they had set a goal for Gold and therefore gave all their best to achieve it.
“We were fully prepared. We had a goal to pursue which was to win the Gold. We learned quite a several things like being resistant, not giving up and the team bond,” she said.
Although they began training years back, the team credited their stellar win to the hand of God and their winning mindset.
According to O’Jay, as the team captain, she had the premonition that they were going to win the game, so she put in her best. Despite the news of other schools’ performances, she was positive and pushed the team to keep striving for gold.
“Even when we were hearing the results from other groups and how they were winning, we remained optimistic, we decided to take it one game at a time.
“Right from the onset, I was positive that we were going to win. My teammates felt the same way; we were positive we were going to win before we even started and that didn’t change for us.” She recalled.
Olawunmi said the team’s biggest strengths were God, determination, dedication, and discipline. “We were so particular about the game and we knew that we couldn’t settle for less, we knew what we came for and we wanted. We devoted our time, we were disciplined, and every member of the team listened to the instructions of the coaches even when it wasn’t convenient for us”.
In Subomi’s view, everyone was willing to push through even when things didn’t seem to go well in their favor. She recalled how at some point, all the team had to keep on going was God, themselves, their coaches, and the physiotherapists.
For O’Jay, the team working as one big family greatly influenced their win.
“The cooperation kept us together. As a team, there’s no way you won’t have differences but because we were all focused, we worked together to achieve it. Just like one big family, we did it together and God did it for us,” she said.
When asked if they had looked forward to playing against any team from the other schools, the team could not name one but they agreed UNIZIK was the most challenging team to face. According to Olawunmi, this was because their performance against the school would determine if they would move on to the finals or not.
Winning in itself is an experience, but the lessons gained during the games were a bigger win for the team as they all recounted the many lessons they learned from NUGA’22 and one recurrent tip was to believe in oneself.
Olawunmi said, “Mine is ‘No limit to what you think you can do’ because nobody believed in us. But we believed in ourselves and GOD did it.”
Subomi shared that NUGA 22 taught her to fight even if nothing was going as planned.
“The fighting spirit. Even when things are not going well in our favor, to never lose focus and always put our heads in the game.
“Being prayerful and obedient. At a point, most of us were injured, and honestly, it was just God, the physiotherapist, the nurse, and support from the coaches and our teammates. And never to look down on ourselves.”
Apart from winning, O’Jay’s experience at the NUGA 22 showed her why she should keep pushing.
Further speaking, she said, “One of the lessons I learned from the NUGA Games 26th edition is that irrespective of how inconvenient or uncomfortable circumstances maybe, you just have to keep pushing.
“Remain focused, keep pushing. Keep your head high always. And in anything, no matter how little or easy it is, you just have to carry God along. And always have a positive attitude towards everything you do.
“Never at any point let your mind waver from what you’re doing. Keep your mindset on achieving success. Pray to God, believe in God, and give your best at all times.”
The UNILAG Angels are proud to be the team to beat when it comes to Nigerian University female football. Their resilience and team spirit paid off at the end of the 26th NUGA games, and the UNILAG Angel’s victory will forever be engraved in the heart of UNILAG students.