RENO, Nev. (AP) — Asisat Oshoala was moved to tears by a story about her mother giving up her future athletic career to help raise Asisat’s younger siblings and ailing father.
“‘What did my mother do to make me coach?’” Asisat recalled thinking Tuesday night at the College Football Hall of Fame. “I thought my mother should be here because she sacrificed a lot.”
The story was told by Braheme Days, who coached Asisat when the Oshoala family moved from Ghana to Reno in 2001.
“He said, ‘My mom moved from Ghana when she was still going to school to come to the United States. She raised my siblings and her father, and my father has advanced diabetes and cancer. If my mother doesn’t go back to school and coach, I’ll be homeless and she will never get out of that condition,’” Asisat said at the induction dinner, with supporters of the Youth Aftermath organization and her foundation standing behind her.
The Oshoala Foundation has distributed $35 million to organizations that support education, sports and leadership.
“To change your perspective, give a son or daughter a future,” Days told her in that memorable 2014 speech. “To change the stories from ‘who is she’ to ‘She is an incredible young woman.’”
The conference begins with a players-only kickoff meeting, which Asisat began by invoking her single mother and grandmother.
“I am standing here today as a servant because my uncles, father and brothers all took that first step, moved to America, and started pursuing their dreams,” she said. “I am standing here as a servant because my mother taught me to not only be a fan of soccer, but to be a coach.”
Asisat, who played on the U.S. women’s national team, U-20 team and team that won the 2015 World Cup, was only the sixth person voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
She became the second African-American woman to be voted into the NCAA’s Hall of Fame, joining Starlily Dickson, who coached at Illinois from 1929-49.
Asisat is the former Golden Knight to have graduated from the school. She attended Reno Military Institute, before transferring to the University of Nevada, Reno, where she was a four-time All-American. She won the George J. Staub Women’s Soccer Award as the nation’s top student-athlete in 2009 and 2010.
“Growing up I always watched and dreamed of being a world-class athlete. I wanted to make it to the professional level and be like Serena Williams and be the greatest female athlete,” Asisat said. “I always dreamed of scoring that one goal or goal making that one play in the final game that made my team go to the top.”
Reno coach Ray Helmer said the Oshoala sisters and mother didn’t know how special Asisat could be until they saw her go one-on-one with a defender.
“All the kids on our team would think, ‘There goes my future playing against those giants,’” Helmer said. “We called Asisat ‘Big Princess’ because of her size and strength. Little did we know when Asisat faced a defender that she was one of the smallest people standing over her.
“To all the scouts that tried to say she couldn’t play against our kids, I say, ‘You know something, the biggest kid always gets the glory.’ If you want to say something nice about Asisat, please, call her ‘Asa’.”
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