Rachael Aladi Ayegba made a huge success in Europe by winning the Finnish Naisten Liiga title with PK-35 Vantaa in 2013, making her the first African female goalkeeper to enjoy such breakthrough abroad.
During her active 11-year spell in Finland, she has enjoyed stints at Kokkolan Palloveikot, Kuopion Palloseura, GBK Kokkola and notably with PK-35 Vantaa, where she won a couple of domestic titles and also competed twice in the UEFA Women's Champions League.
At the international level, she made her debut against Namibia in 2001 and was a member of the Super Falcons squad at the 2006 and 2008 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (then African Women's Championships), as well as the 2007 Women's World Cup in China and African Games in Algeria same year.
Having retired in 2016, 'Baruwa' as she is nicknamed, who locally played for Oladimeji Tigress and Ufouma Babes, FCT Queens of Abuja, and Edo Queens in Nigeria before her move to Finland in 2005 has since ventured into coaching. Since taking to coaching, she has gone on to acquire UEFA A Goalkeepers License, while serving for three years as a player/coach at GBK.
Nigeria boasts of numerous female goalkeepers, including Precious Dede but the 34-year-old, who is renowned for her lanky, fiery attitude, and composure in one-on-one situations, was one of a few that made it out of Africa and she prides herself as being a shining light for the next generation.
In an exclusive interview, she spoke to CAFOnline.com about her football journey, family support, and the motivation to become a coach, among others. Below are excerpts;
CAFOnline.com: How did your journey into football started?
Rachael Ayegba: I was exposed to playing football as a child. The only option I had for a recreational activity was to play football with my dad and brothers whilst growing up in a community in Delta State, Nigeria, where my father served as was also a Police Officer. I was also interested in volleyball and handball, and participated in minor games that were part of the school curriculum for sports. Most of the time, I had to play with my brothers at home, which made football more dominant.
How supportive were your family to your career?
My family has been the bedrock of support for me during my career. They have always been there for me from the outset, and all through the obstacles and victories encountered during my career. It’s been an honour for me to make my dad’s wish of playing for Nigeria at the highest level come to pass.