As far as legends go, Perpetua Nkwocha is as big as they come in female soccer in Africa. Now 40, Nkwocha enjoyed a stellar career, winning multiple titles and individual awards as she represented Nigeria’s women’s team, the Super Falcons.
Now in the twilight of her career with Clemensnas IF, a club in Skelleftea, Sweden, Nkwocha is set to retire soon but with the regular club season not starting till May, Nkwocha is spending her free time on a new passion coaching migrant boys from Afghanistan.
Called the ‘Football For All’ project, Nkwocha, in partnership with her club and local football officials, coaches young migrants who have recently arrived in Skelleftea. Sweden has been prominently involved in the migrant crisis which has rocked Europe in the last year as it has kept its borders open to families from Syria and Afghanistan.
While there is increasing concern over sex attacks committed by migrants in the country, Nkwocha, with the Football for All project, is focused on helping migrant boys in Skelleftea settle down using soccer as a tool.
Being far from home herself, Nkwocha empathizes with the young migrants. “I feel that it’s similar – which is why I have to try to make them happy, because I know where they came from,” she told the BBC. “”We try to make them feel welcome, try to make them feel happy, try to make them get friends. I feel so glad that I connected with them and we started this project together.”
It is unlikely that the migrants from Afghanistan know all about Nkwocha but if they did a quick check, they will find that she is Africa’s most decorated female soccer player ever.
Her international career with Nigeria’s Super Falcons spanned 13 years and she was part of a record breaking team that won five African Women Championships. Much of Nkwocha’s legend revolves around her exceptional goalscoring record. Of the seven African Women’s Championships she played in, she was named top goalscorer four times.
Nkwocha’s best goals return at the tournament came in 2010 when she set the record of most goals scored in a single tournament with 11 goals. She also holds the record of scoring the most goals in the history of the competition with a total of 33. Nkwocha has been named the African Women’s Footballer of the Year four times—also a record. She also represented Nigeria at four World cup tournaments between 2003 to 2015 and also at the Olympics in Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008).