In an interview with CNN’s Amanda Davies, Paris FC and Nigerian goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie discussed her road to the top of the women’s world football game.
From a small semi-urban town in Nigeria to the World Cup knockout stages, Nnadozie says she looks back on her journey with pride. The Nigerian rose to stardom after becoming the youngest-ever goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet at a Women’s World Cup in 2019.
“Initially, I was the second goalkeeper in the team,” Nnadozie says, recalling her emotions at the 2019 tournament. “During the second game, when the coach told me I would be playing, I was very scared because I was still very, very young. I was crying.” Nigeria won the game 2-0, and history was written with Nnadozie’s name etched into the record books.
In 2023, Nnadozie is fresh off a host of impressive achievements with both club and country. With the help of her performances in goal, Nigeria finished second in their World Cup group, picking up two clean sheets along the way, before bowing out of the competition at the last 16 stage to European champion England.
When asked about the secret to her penalty-saving success, Nnadozie says there are no rituals, no whacky superstitions, just ice in the veins, “To be honest with you, no pressure. Yes, pressure from the team, but for me personally, there is no pressure at all because when I’m calm, I understand myself more,” she said.
Growing up in a family of boys and men – who had all tried their hand at going professional – Nnadozie’s ambition to follow suit wasn’t greeted with unyielding enthusiasm. The 22-year-old tells CNN, “It wasn’t very good from my family. They never let me play, especially my dad.”
She continues, “Whenever I went to play soccer, he would always tell me: ‘Girls don’t play football. Look at me. I played football, I didn’t make it. Your brother, he played, he didn’t make it. Your cousin played, he didn’t make it. So why do you want to choose this? Why don’t you want to go to school or maybe do some other things?”
Despite the cynicism, Nnadozie continued to play football to fulfil her dream of playing for Nigeria. Her mother was instrumental in keeping that hope alive, often taking Nnadozie to her auntie’s house where she could play freely without refute.
In 2016, Nnadozie was asked to represent Nigeria at the Under-17s Women’s World Cup in Jordan. After that, her father finally came around. “One time when we’re playing against England, my mum called out: ‘OK, do you know this person?’ And he was like: ‘Is this my daughter?’ My mom said: ‘Yeah, she’s playing for Nigeria now on the national TV.’ And he was so happy.”
The rise of Nnadozie has run in tandem with the rise of female goalkeepers globally. “Mary Earps, she’s all over the world. She has won the Euros and she’s a very good goalkeeper. It’s the same with [Christiane] Endler. I’m happy I’m being mentioned among these people,” she tells Davies.
Nnadozie’s advice to aspiring footballers is, “All I’m going to say to them is just keep being you, keep working hard. Always do the right thing, even nobody’s watching you. It’s difficult when your parents doesn’t support you. What can you do? But we just have to keep working hard and believe in yourself. One day, the skies will be your starting point.”