When the Super Falcons take the field against Canada in the opening game of the 2023 Women’s World Cup on Friday at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, a player of Nigerian descent, Simi Awujo, who was named the Women’s 2022 Canada Soccer Young Player of the Year last December, will be among the North Americans.
Awujo was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 23, 2003, to Nigerian parents of Yoruba descent, Dr. Akinwole Awujo, a Medical Doctor, and Dr. Mrs. Shola Okuwa-Awujo, a Pharmacist. He attended Command Secondary School, Maryland in Ikeja, Lagos.
Her mother, Shola, is a thoroughbred Lagos indigene with Canadian citizenship, while her father, Akinwole, was born in Idanre, Ondo State, where the spreading hills are a stunning tourist attraction, and has American citizenship, therefore their current residence in Atlanta, Georgia.
As a result, Awujo was qualified to represent the United States, where she was born, Nigeria, where her parents were born, and Canada, where her mother Shola resides.
She did, however, represent the United States U-17 team at a UEFA Women’s Development Tournament in the Czech Republic in 2019, before Canada chose her for the rosters for the 2022 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship, where she won a bronze medal, and the 2022 U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica, where she played every minute as Canada crashed out of the group stage.
Awujo was subsequently named to Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team for the first time in September, at the age of 18, after being chosen by head coach Bev Priestman ahead of a pair of international friendlies against Australia in Brisbane and Sydney.
She made her debut September 3, 2022, coming on as a substitute against the Australians.
She went on to make six appearances for the Canadian senior women’s team prior to the World Cup and would appreciate a seventh against her parents’ country on Friday.
However, this is not the first time the 19-year-old has faced a Nigerian team.
With Canada, she was defeated by the Falconets, Nigeria’s U-20 women’s team, who won 3-1 at last year’s U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica.
The victory propelled Nigeria to a commanding lead in Group C, with a total of nine points, while Canada returned home empty-handed.
Interestingly, Canada seized the lead in less than two minutes thanks to Kala Novak, who capitalized on goalkeeper Omini Oyono’s mishandling of a backpass from Jumoke Alani.
In the 24th minute, Esther Onyenezide scored from the penalty spot to tie the game.
In the 32nd minute, Onyenezide scored again from the penalty spot, this time after Awujo’s reckless conduct against Mercy Idoko — the latter went for a header from Rofiat Imuran’s inswinger — was penalized.
The young Nigerian girls sealed the tie in the second half when Imuran set up replacement Chioma Olise for Nigeria’s third goal with another spectacular cross.
Findings by our reporter shows Awujo’s mum passionately supports her daughter in her chosen career.
In fact, she and her family were in Costa Rica to support her.
Before the defeat in Costa Rica, she wrote on Facebook, “My other people are predicting 2-0 in favor of Nigeria… #teamsimisola has to win this for CANADA.”
After the defeat, Shola wrote again on her Facebook page, “We lost the match, but gained so much more! I am grateful for my Canadian and American families who came to support Simi and her team. I am especially grateful to God for giving Simi this chance and for Canada finding her and giving her a chance. This is her best fit and great things are coming #teamsisola.”
This time, the midfielder will be looking for a victorious senior World Cup debut against her Nigerian sisters in order to avenge and exorcise the defeat at U-20 level.
Of course, Shola will be cheering on her daughter and Canada against the Falcons on Friday, but can the former African champions make it a second time unlucky for Awujo, her mother, and Canada?
The Falcons will provide the answer after 90 minutes in Melbourne on Friday.