The Indomitable Onome Ebi: Nigeria’s Football Icon with Record Six FIFA Women’s World Cup Appearances

by Joseph Omoniyi
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At 40 years young, Onome Ebi, the esteemed captain of Nigeria’s Super Falcons, stands tall as a trailblazer and the first African football player to participate in six FIFA Women’s World Cups. With an illustrious 20-year journey in the world of football, Ebi’s unwavering passion for the game has defied expectations, propelling her to achieve remarkable feats on the global stage.

Onome Ebi’s incredible football journey began at a young age, and her talent quickly caught the attention of scouts and coaches. Hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, she started her career with the defunct Nigerian women’s football team, the Omidiran Babes, showcasing her potential as a formidable defender. Her exceptional skills on the pitch earned her recognition and a call-up to the national team.

In 2003, barely out of her teens, Ebi’s dreams became a reality when Nigeria’s head coach, Samuel Okpodu, selected her to represent the country at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. It was a moment of immense pride for the young footballer, but it also came with a sense of responsibility as she realized the magnitude of representing her nation on the global stage.

Her World Cup debut on September 20, 2003, marked the beginning of a historic journey that would see her participate in five consecutive Women’s World Cups. From the outset, she demonstrated her resilience and tenacity, playing a crucial role in the Super Falcons’ defense.

On August 31, 2023, history was made as Nigeria’s Super Falcons, led by their legendary number 5, Onome Ebi, secured a spot in the knockout stage of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup after a goalless draw against Ireland. This remarkable feat marked the third time the Super Falcons have advanced this far in the prestigious competition, and it is no surprise that Ebi played a pivotal role in their success.

At 40 years old, Ebi continues to defy expectations and smash records as one of Africa’s most accomplished football players. Here are some impressive facts about this indomitable legend:

  1. Six-Time Women’s World Cup Participant: Ebi’s illustrious career has seen her represent her country at an astonishing six Women’s World Cup tournaments, cementing her status as a true football icon. She made her World Cup debut in 2003 at just 20 years old and has since been a vital component of the Super Falcons’ defense.
  2. African Record Holder: As the only African player to feature in more than four Women’s World Cups, Ebi’s impact on the sport’s continental landscape is unparalleled. Her unwavering dedication to the game has propelled her to this historic achievement, making her a role model for aspiring athletes across Africa.
  3. A Career Spent in Service: With over two decades spent as a Nigerian international, Ebi’s journey began with the defunct Nigerian women’s football team, the Omidiran Babes. Her passion for the sport and love for representing her country has remained undiminished throughout her impressive career.
  4. A Versatile and Accomplished Player: Ebi’s talent extends beyond her defensive prowess; she has captained Turkish club Atasehir to a league title in 2012 and showcased her attacking skills with 27 goals during the club’s 2013 campaign. Throughout her career, she has played in various leagues, including the Belarusian, Chinese, Swedish, and Spanish leagues.
  5. A Beacon of Resilience and Dedication: Ebi’s journey has been a testament to her dedication and discipline. Despite occasional criticism, she remains undeterred, pushing forward with a relentless pursuit of excellence on and off the pitch. Her unwavering commitment has inspired teammates and fans alike, earning her the affectionate nickname “Mama” from her Super Falcons family.
  6. Impact Beyond Football: Beyond her exceptional football career, Ebi’s influence extends to her community, where she continues to be a role model for aspiring young athletes. Her impact goes beyond the football field, showcasing the transformative power of sport in empowering individuals and inspiring future generations.

As she continues on her record-breaking sixth appearance at the Women’s World Cup, Ebi continues to be a driving force for the Super Falcons. Her presence on the field, both defensively and as an attacking threat, remains invaluable to the team’s success. And while her journey has taken her to numerous clubs worldwide, her heart and passion have always remained with Nigeria, as evident in her numerous appearances at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Ebi’s versatility and adaptability have been instrumental in her success as a footballer. Over the years, she has played for various clubs across the globe, from the Belarusian League to the Chinese League, the Swedish Damallsvenskan, and the Spanish League. Her experience in diverse footballing cultures has enriched her game and contributed to her ability to thrive on different terrains.

Notably, Ebi captained Turkish club Atasehir to the league title in 2012, proving her leadership skills both on and off the field. During her tenure with the club, she showcased her attacking prowess by scoring an impressive 27 goals in the 2013 campaign.

Ebi’s impact extends beyond the football field. As the Super Falcons captain, she is a role model for aspiring young footballers in Nigeria and across Africa. Her dedication to the sport, combined with her unwavering passion, serves as an inspiration to the next generation of players, encouraging them to dream big and strive for excellence.

Throughout her career, Ebi has been a cornerstone of the Super Falcons’ defense, known for her exceptional defensive skills, tactical acumen, and leadership qualities. Her ability to read the game, make crucial tackles, and organize the defensive line has been critical to the team’s success.

Through the years, Ebi has evolved from a young and tentative footballer to a seasoned and assertive woman, both on and off the pitch. Her consistent ability to perform at the highest level is a testament to her self-discipline and unwavering commitment to her craft. Remarkably, she maintains a strict regime of self-improvement, often training with men’s teams to reinvent herself continuously.

Ebi’s enduring success isn’t just down to her physical prowess; her approach to sleep and diet play pivotal roles in her longevity as a top-level athlete. Recognizing the importance of quality rest and recovery, she emphasizes the significance of getting adequate sleep during intense tournaments, helping her body and mind stay sharp and focused.

Despite occasional criticism, Ebi remains unfazed, taking it in stride as part of the job. Her indomitable spirit and love for the sport drive her to excel, proving that age is no barrier to passion and excellence. Proud of her vast experience, Ebi channels the criticism into fuel for her determination to succeed on the pitch and beyond.

Off the field, Ebi’s influence is felt by her teammates, earning her the endearing nickname “Mama.” Her leadership and skills as a centre-back have been pivotal to the Super Falcons’ success over the years. As a player with extensive international experience, Ebi continues to inspire both her teammates and fans across the globe.

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