Embracing Every Moment
My name is Uchenna Kanu, I currently play for Racing Louisville FC and the Nigeria Women’s National Team (Super Falcons).
I was born and raised in Aba, Abia State, Nigeria. I started playing youth soccer back in Nigeria when I was very young. I fell in love with the game and took it seriously from the age of 11. Back then I did not have the best support I needed as a young athlete. No good facilities, equipment, good coaching, and I generally was not encouraged due societal norms. Regardless of the challenges, I did not give up on my dreams. I kept showing up and working hard to become a better athlete with whatever I had.
Along the line, I got a scholarship opportunity to play in the US at a college level, at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. Arriving in the US, I was scared and nervous. I did not know what to expect and how things worked. I didn’t stop learning and making new friends. Due to my stellar performance, I was blessed to sign a professional contract right after graduation. The major challenge I had was leaving my family and language. I am thankful I got to meet amazing people both in college and at clubs, who helped me during those transitional moments to settle in. The one thing I always do to prepare for a game is call my mom and get her blessings and prayers.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
The photos were taken at both club and national team. Mostly, I wanted to capture moments with my teammates at training and other team activities.
I wanted to show how cool my teammates are on and off the pitch and how much fun we have even when we are not playing. Also how imperative it is to find time during our career to enjoy and embrace every moment throughout the journey.
What are the opportunities and challenges for women’s footballers in Nigeria (and USA)? What changes have you seen in women’s football since you started playing?
There are various opportunities in women's football especially now that more people have bought into it. Clubs are having thousands of people physically come to the games and not just watch on TV. That also allows athletes to be good role models and an inspiration to the younger generation of girl athletes, who may not get the opportunity to see what it is like to be a professional footballer if their parents had not taken them to see the games.
Women’s football has really grown and it is important that the leaders involved stay consistent with the overall development and growth in women football. In Nigeria, I think women’s football could be better when it comes to good facilities, payments, proper equipment, marketing and publicity and just the overall welfare of teams and safe environments to play.
What does football and representing your country mean to you?
I was first called to the national team in 2014 for the U17 and U20 World Cup. Then I joined the Super Falcons in 2019. It was everything. I was super excited and happy to wear the Nigerian jersey and represent the whole country. It was a huge honor and privilege, being called up from college knowing there were thousands of players who were professionals and playing at a higher level than myself, but they chose me. I was very grateful and excited.
Football has given me a profound platform to be myself and a role model to many people, both in Nigeria and abroad. It means so much to me to not only represent myself, family and friends but also my whole country. Playing on the biggest stage of my career was a dream come true and I could not be more honored and grateful for the opportunity.
What role does football play in your community and Nigerian society?
Football is the biggest sport in my community and in Nigeria as a whole. It has played a huge role in bringing people together and creating room for diversity. With football, people are exposed to different people, cultures and traditions that they would not have known if football did not exist. It allows people to travel, have jobs, and make a living while having fun.
What are your personal ambitions for the future?
My utmost ambition for the future is using my platform to help as many girls as possible in my community. I always put myself in their shoes, relating to their struggles and how the opportunity to maximize their potential is limited. I recently launched my website and foundation where I plan to not only share my career journey, but also give younger girls the platform to showcase their talents, and hopefully get athletic scholarship opportunities to study and play abroad.
What does the future look like for women's football? What do you want/expect to change after the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
The future of women’s football is pretty bright. With all the developments going on right now and with the help of more investors, women’s football is taking over in no time. I expect federations across the world to do right by their women’s teams. There is always a national team that has issues with their federation before, during and after tournaments, and is a shame at this level.