Egypt made history at the just concluded 2016 African Women Championship in Cameroon where they scooped their first ever win in the tournament’s history, a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe.
Even though the team exited the competition at the group stage, it did leave a lasting impression on 16-year-old Habiba Musa who has always wanted to play football. She is a footballer but she also wears the hijab – like many of the Egyptian players.
Habiba lives in Kaduna State in northern Nigeria. There are only four female team in the north of the country but this hasn’t stopped the young woman from her ambitious dreams.
Tell us how you fell in love with football?
Well, I have been in love with the game as far back as I can remember. I have two older brothers who always play the game at the back of our house and I’ll be with them most of the time watching them play.
Football is still seen as a no-no for women in some parts of the world.
That was my first contact with the sport and I grew older I started to play with them and my passion increased from there.
How did the Egypt female team inspire you?
You know football is still seen as a no-no for women in some parts of the world including our region (northern Nigeria) so for Egypt, a country that also has the same beliefs as us, to allow their females to not only play but take part in international competitions proves to me that I’ll achieve my aim of playing for the Nigerian national team one day.
My parents support my ambition but are also wary of the society and what people might say.
You can see that the player that scored that historic goal for Egypt (in their 1-0 win over Zimbabwe) Salma Ahmed was wearing her hijab and it didn’t stop her.
When did you realise you’ll make a very good footballer?
I once played in a team of boys and ended up scoring two amazing goals. My brothers organised the game and the other team was a man short so I offered to play.
At first some of them were skeptical and one of my brothers told them to give me a chance and I ended up wowing them with two goals which won the game for my team.
How supportive are your parents?
My parents support my ambition but are also wary of the society and what people might say if they allow me to play professionally considering their deep rooted religious beliefs. But they know it’s what I want to do and they are always advising me to remain focused and maintain my upbringing and beliefs.
The fact that she’s also a practicing Muslim makes me relate with her deeply.
They also watched some of Egypt games with me and were relieved when they saw the girls playing with their heads covered because at home we are always not allowed to go out without head scarfs.
How close are you to achieving your aim?
At the moment, I train with the Kubwa Ladies Academy in Abuja and I’m enjoying every minute of it. I plan to present myself for trials at the national stadium next year when enrolment into the National U17 team begins. That will be the first step to my becoming a professional footballer.
Who are your role models in the sport?
Arsenal Ladies player Asisat Oshoala who just helped Nigeria win another African championship has been amazing since she came into the scene just over two years ago.
The fact that she’s also a practicing Muslim makes me relate with her deeply. I also like Desire Oparanozie, she’s a fighter, never gives up and has an eye for goal.
Any message for young girls who are interested in sport but feel inhibited by the society?
Yes, I want them to never give up because whatever you set your mind to can be achieved at the same time the society should always encourage young girls to be themselves, support them to reach the top and they stand to benefit from the resources that will follow.
You can see how Oshoala is giving back to her society at the moment in terms of philantrophy, social responsibility programmes and football competition for young girls.
Video by Charbel Bou-Antoun