Barr.Victoria Nlemigbo, wife of the Imo State All Progressives Congress (APC), Barr Marcellinus Nlemigbo, is a 60 year old woman in active female football, playing, coaching and administering. She was handy to display her skills alongside Chioma Ajunwa (MON), Nigeria’s Olympic gold medalist in a novelty football match during the launch of the latest Imo female football outfit, the Imo Angels. It was there our editor, Afam Echi, spotted her for this chat. She condemns corruption in sports and declared that a woman must be educated to make a better society.
What was your motivation for going into football in the first place, a terrain considered the world of men?
I played football in my primary and secondary school. I got back into it during my law school program where I used it as a form of exercise. When I came out of law school I saw football as a opportunity to support indigent persons especially girls, to take them off the street. So I established the desire that rather than being in the street they can be in the pitch, with a changed life. So I had to establish a team known as UCON Angels, Federal Capital Territory Abuja. My team qualified to play pro then in early 2000. It is this desire to support young women that got me proactive with football, with the injustices that footballers face, ensuring their welfare: feeding, education etc. That was how I got there and my passion naturally got me noticed.
Looking back, are you fulfilled with your sojourn into football?
Well, as I explained earlier I do not measure fulfillment by the amount of money but if I look at the children that I have touched their lives for good, they have made progress in their lives and education, even in placements in the establishments they work, yes I can say that I am actually fulfilled. I am also working to ensure that justice is brought into our football. I am very very committed to ensuring that football is run properly and the benefit of football to players is given to those who merit it. I am a professional coach, a member of the football coaches association, having served as the head of women football in FCT for ten years, in various committees, I ensure that the authorities are kept on their toes in their responsibilities to run football as it should, to a large extent I can say that I am fulfilled. No doubt there are areas that I have not done well but I am still pushing.
Are you not also concerned that football changes the physique of women, makes them muscular and masculine, and sometimes causing some to lose attraction to men?
My brother this question sounds absurd. First, no human being should live for the attraction of men. No, that is wrong. Moreover you have studied creation and know that realities of creation abound beyond our limited knowledge. First, some people already have come in the shape and manner that would not be appealing to men but they are human being that has come in forms for purposes beyond you and me. As a human being who comes across these set of people would you now abandon them because you don’t see them as befitting. I come from the school of thought that says women must remain women, but what if you are standing on duty and wants to help a fellow human being, be it a girl that want to play football or whoever, whose physique is going to be changed for playing football. How do you then touch the inner core of such a person if you condemn the person because she does not fall in line with your thoughts or beliefs? I am completely open to support whoever crosses my path in line with what that person is doing at the particular moment. It is from where the person is that you will be able to guide the person to a better understanding of life. I don’t judge nor do I even notice any person masculine or not I focus on what I have found as my duty in the circumstance.
You are a mother, wife, lawyer, football administrator, coach and many other things. How do you juggle all of these and still come out successful?
My brother, I thank the most high for being who I am. I thank him for strength, love, ability, guidance and for his protection. At the end of the day without all these nothing could have been possible. On my versatility I try to put my best on anything I lay my hands on. Yes, I am a lawyer and I practice. It is in the course of being a lawyer that brought me into some of these things and then I struggle a lot but I know that with the help of the Almighty where I anchor everything I do my best.
How does your family, friends, professional colleagues view your participation in football?
You know sometimes you live your life trying to find fulfillment in what you do? At the end of the day your determination, commitment and discipline attract different views and opinions from people. At the end some who understand you appreciates what you do. I have a lot of fans, in the legal professions, from my family; my son remains my highest inspiration. As I speak I am trying to establish recreational football for female lawyers. So my team and I are working assiduously to get it registered. That is to tell you even the female lawyers, the FIDA, sometimes, they come out they play football. So I am at the verge of getting female lawyers to have a feel of what the ordinary girl child in the field goes through. You will get to know more about this. Just watch out.
What are your views about football administration in Nigeria? Are we getting it right or wrong?
If you ask me whom will I ask? Football administration in Nigeria does it actually exist? It doesn’t exist o! We just have a cabal that has hijacked football. And they do as they like, there is nobody fighting them, nobody talking to them. You see you journalists, you talk today, tomorrow they invite you, when the brown envelope comes, and the language changes. They pitch journalists against themselves, confuse them, and continue to do their thing. It is very very disappointing what we have in this country, speaking without fear or favor it is nonexistent.
Unfortunately the football community stemming down from FIFA, to the lowest is the most corrupt and bereft of any form of conscience. It is the most corrupt sector in the world where there are no limits to what can be done. FIFA does not have tenure attached to presidency, you can stay there until you can no longer work or till may be they use wheel barrow to push you out of the office. Look at what is happening in Imo State.
This year the Heartland Queens were not registered for premier league. Is it because the state couldn’t raise that money or because people are put in offices that they don’t understand anything about or because people are fighting each other over what they don’t know anything about.
Take it from that your Imo state. The Heartland FC, how many months do they owe the players? The young girls that are playing how many months are they owing them. These people are just ignoring the fact that one day posterity will judge them irrespective of what they do. Football administration is a sore point, it hurts
Watching you play in the novelty match in Owerri at 60 shows the passion you have for the round leather. What is your inspiration, what keeps the fire in you?
I have already answered this question earlier. Truth is I love football. I don’t know how it started. I see football pitch as a good ground for mental, physical, emotional, structuring, discipline and order. I enjoy the play. It is a way of interaction and bringing me to the level of the young ones.
They can see that if I can come in and do it they too can and when I am on the pitch I am very serious and if they want to use it as a means of livelihood, they should take it serious. Football has kept me going for twenty years I have been exercising on the pitch. I play with girls, boys, men, women, and I enjoy it.
That enjoyment and happiness of interacting with people and using it to show how to behave, how to tolerate, how to focus and above all how to sharpen their spirituality, in the process. So as an example of a role model I will continue to play as long as my body can carry me.
If you are the president of Nigeria what is that one thing that thugs at your mind to improve the condition of women in Nigeria?
Well, I will send them to school, educate them, empower them, and protect them, make them see reason to be spiritual. A woman must be educated to make a better society