Beyond Extraordinary Series (1): Nigeria’s first professional female goalkeeper, Ann Chiejiene who played during pregnancy

By Duchess Magazine

Ann Chiejine is a trailblazer and a true warrior on and off the football pitch. As a pioneering goalkeeper of women’s football in Nigeria, she represented the Super Falcons at the 2000 Summer Olympics while being four months pregnant. Her determination and passion for the game, even in the face of adversity, has solidified her status as one of Nigeria’s most iconic female footballers of all time.

At the inaugural 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Ann was the undisputed number 1 for the Super Falcons at the age of just 17. Despite not knowing that she was pregnant, Ann took the risk for her country and continued to play in the tournament until the Super Falcons were knocked out. “It was a big risk, a very big one, but I took the risk for Nigeria,” Chiejine told Brila FM.

Her sacrifice paid off as she proceeded to the 2000 African Women’s Championship, which was held in South Africa just a month later, and was between the sticks as Nigeria won the tournament, beating the host in the final match. Throughout her career, Ann represented Nigeria in three World Cups in 1991, 1995, 1999 and the 2000 Summer Olympics. She also won four Africa Women’s Cup of Nations titles (1998, 2000, 2002, 2004) and was part of the team that reached the quarterfinals of the 1999 Women’s World Cup in the United States.

Off the field, Ann almost signed for the Arsenal female team in 1999 but was denied a visa by the British embassy. She retired from international football in 2005, and got married in 1992 at the age of 18 to Mr Uche Chiejine. They are blessed with four children – two boys and two girls.

Ann’s love for football didn’t stop there as she ventured into coaching, but her sojourn in Romania was short-lived as she had to resign her appointment a little after three months in early 2010. The weather, food and language barrier were things she couldn’t manage. “It was terrible months I had to endure there. The weather, food, and language barrier were things I could not manage,” Ann recounts.

Despite the challenges, Ann’s love for football never wavered, throughout her career.

She has always been passionate about the game and pushed herself to do things that many would have thought impossible. From her debut for the Super Falcons in 1990, to her World Cup appearances, and even playing while pregnant, Ann’s determination and drive is truly admirable.

One of her proudest moments as a player was when the Super Falcons qualified for the quarterfinals of the 1999 Women’s World Cup in the United States. As a coach, it was when they won the African Women’s Championship in South Africa in 2010 and in Cameroon.

Despite not having much fame and wealth as a footballer, Ann doesn’t regret taking football as a career. “I am comfortable,” she says. Ann Chiejine’s story is not just about football, it’s about the spirit of a true warrior who faced many battles on and off the field, and came out victorious. She continues to inspire and pave the way for future generations of female footballers in Nigeria and around the world.

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