However, that was not the case for 17-year-old Sophia Omotola Omidiji, a US born player with Nigerian blood running in her veins. She surprisingly turned down the opportunity of representing the Yanks football team all in the name of playing for her fatherland, Nigeria.
Omidiji hoped of playing for the Nigeria’s U-20 team, popularly known as the Falconets prior to their qualification for the 2016 FIFA U-20 World Cup, slated for Papa New Guinea this November.
But her hopes were dashed after playing 10 minutes for the team in an international friendly match where the current coach, Peter Dedevbo felt she was not yet quality material for the team without trying her in subsequent games.
The youngster can play in the wings, midfield virtually any position on the pitch except for goalkeeping as she uses her speed to help break up the opponent’s plays while instantly turning defense into offense by dropping back to help the midfield and finding and creating space on the field to dictate the game.
She may not have that big size required from a striker, however, she makes up for that in abundance with her skills, speed, strength, physical, and aggressive play and overall knowledge of the game, mental aptitude and commitment to improving.
When ESPN and FOX came to film her for an interview in the Netherlands and asked her why she chose Nigeria over the United States, she told them: “thanks for the invite but my heart is with my fatherland. I am happy the US team invited me but my heart is with my fatherland. I want to make my father and grandparents proud by wearing Nigeria’s colors and deliver a World Cup to a country that has given me so much because even if I don’t look like what people think a Nigerian looks like, the country is in my heart and in everything I do and unlike what people think, Nigeria is a progressive country with progressive people and I am proud to wear her color.”
Lateef Omidiji Sr., Sophia’s father complained bitterly to Nigerianreporter.com.
“Peter Dedevbo’s opinion is that only big and strong players play football logic and other coaches disagree with. No she is not as big and strong as the Igbo girls on his team but she has more technique and tactical awareness than them,” he said.
“With all due respect to Peter Dedevbo, Spain, Canada and Japan are not big and strong, just fast and technical and they have success at this level. Someone told me that the reason he didn’t pick her is because he already had his team picked prior to calling her up and it had nothing to do with her talent,” he added.
With her first visit in Nigeria, the American-born Nigerian youngster who has signed a professional contract with FC Eindhoven at the age of 17 in the Netherlands where she is the youngest member of the team, was beaming with pride but right now has been devastated with the negative comments by the coach.
“When she got to Nigeria, of course it was a bit different for her as the style, coaching style, conditions were different but she persevered, worked and trained hard because nothing means more to this girl than to make her family and coaches abroad proud and vindicate her decision and our insistence to her family that she represent Nigeria. The coach however (without playing her in a single game, only 10 minutes in a friendly game determined that a girl who is highly rated in the United States and Europe has nothing to offer his squad who barely beat South Africa home and away in the final game and struggled to beat Congo as well. He did not play her a single minute and also told her that he has no plans to take her to Papa New Guinea for the World Cup,” Lateef continued to lament.
“Sophia right now is crushed and devastated. She has never in her 15 years of playing as she has been playing competitive and organized football in the United states since she was 4 felt so low. She is currently training with PSV Eindhoven in Holland with plans to link up with them after her contract with FC Eidhoven is over as the coach rates her very highly. We as her parents are now left frustrated because my parents and I were the ones that insisted that she represent her fatherland and not America,” Lateef concluded.
Having played for various college football programs such as the Nevada Olympic Development Program team leading the team to the ODP championships, Sophia also played with numerous teams from Texas to Washington, California to Arizona playing in numerous tournaments all across the country to get exposure to different styles of plays, formations and varying opponent difficulty while learning from some of the best coaches in the country.
To further develop her game, she has traveled to England where she trained and played with numerous women’s teams to improve her skills and gain exposure to international soccer and is currently licensed by the British FA as she just completed the first course to getting a UEFA coaching badge.
Here are some of her accomplishments:
– Player and captain of Las Vegas Premier Soccer Academy (LVPSA)
– Player and captain of the United States Olympic Development Team (ODP)
– Player and captain of Sierra Vista High school Varsity soccer team, Las Vegas, Nevada.
– All State, All Conference and All division winner along with school offensive MVP 4 years in a row.
– School Goals record holder with 94 goals in four seasons (Presently have 35 goals in the current season with 9 games played )
– signed her first professional contract at the age of 17