Nigerian award-winning film actress, author and politician Hilda Dokubo, in this interview with EBENEZER BAJELA, talks about the Super Falcons, equal pay for men and women footballers and more
How do you relax when you’re not on set?
I read books and listen to music, I create a training curriculum and plan.
Do you love sports?
I don’t hate sports but I will need to go out of my way to say I want to see a particular game, but when there is the need to, I watch them.
Have you attended any live game?
Of course I have attended some. I was one time a youth leader and coordinator and I have watched full football matches at the main bowl. I watched tennis, basketball and even rugby. I watched them because they were part of what I was scheduled to watch.
How will you describe your experiences watching these games?
Oh, it was a very nice experience especially when you are not the one playing, you have all your adrenaline running and you can’t just stop shouting. It was fine, but the reason I really don’t watch games like that is because if the person or team I am rooting for to win doesn’t get to win it gets to me because I am an emotional person. But I like to watch people run around chasing an object. It was a great experience.
The 2023 Women’s World Cup ended some weeks ago with the Super Falcons crashing out in the round of 16 against England. How would you rate their performance?
Like I said before, I get emotional when watching games but everyone has been talking about their performance. I can say they really did very well and to have even gotten that far where they lost on penalties says a lot about their quality. They are very disciplined and highly gifted but when you are in a country where you don’t get the opportunity or platform to practice and the development is not there, you rush to training, you rush to travel and you do everything in a hurry, when you come out a winner you are always the better and stronger for it. I will say the ladies were absolutely fantastic and we need to congratulate them.
You are really full of praise for the Falcons, do you think they have what it takes to win the World Cup in the near future?
It is possible because our women are very good and they have an excellent spirit, which I believe is needed. I am confident that they can win anything. With time and people getting motivated and lots of practice and preparations we can win the World Cup.
Coincidentally, some of the country’s major achievements have come from women. Are you an advocate of equal pay for male and female athletes, as well as more attention on women in sports?
I support the call for equal pay, they should pay the women as good as they are paying the men, after all it is the same football that they are all playing. Even our women are more entertaining, they deserve equal treatment please. In fact, the women deserve even better.
Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala and Victor Osimhen were nominated for the Ballon’d Or. How do you feel having Nigerians nominated?
The truth is anyone who is nominated deserves to be reached out to and congratulated because it is not easy. It doesn’t matter if the person is your choice but the fact the person is a Nigerian makes us happy and we should celebrate Oshoala and Osimhen because that’s the only way we keep encouraging more people to get involved and put in their best. But if we all act like we don’t care, people will not be motivated. I feel excited that one of our own has been nominated and we should congratulate Oshoala even if she doesn’t win because it is not easy to be shortlisted for such a prestigious award because we know the number of people in the world and yet she was nominated. We should be proud of her and celebrate her.
At home, how do you deal with the noise when your family are watching football?
(Laughs) I’m sure you know that generally Nigerians like to shout and we are probably the only group of people who, when they talk, also shout. I have a lot of people from different parts of of the country that can’t talk but shout. When you have all the noise going on, you just have to admit that is who we are, we are very loud and I just try to do my best. If you want to join in the shouting, you join, and if you don’t want to join them just enjoy the game because really there is nothing I can do about it. But the truth is watching football without the noise is not good and incomplete. In Nigeria, we don’t have to wait for games to end before we start analysing because as we are watching football we are analysing and before we finish arguing about that one, another thing has happened. So, I am used to that.
While growing up did you participate in any sports?
Yes, I did. I was involved in gymnastics in primary school and volleyball in secondary school. I enjoyed the fact that I could jump and it was fun but I didn’t continue because in life you do certain things at a time because you need to do them. I would have continued with gymnastics but when I got to secondary school there was nothing like that and I had to chose volleyball but I believe if I had continued with gymnastics I would have excelled because I really liked it, however, I started getting involved in other activities like writing and acting.
There is this notion that sports is a unifying factor in Nigeria…
(Cuts in) That is very true and we all know without any doubt that sport is a unifying factor because that’s the only time we forget where we are from or which tribe you belong. The only time we say we are one loving nation is when the Super Eagles are playing or when it is Nigerian music or movies. Even the movie industry is already going different parts but sports remain the only way we come together as one.
What do you think should be done to make sports a big part of our lives?
I wish this government can promote something that we can love them for, even if it is sports, since we all agree that it is a unifying factor. The government destroys the common man but it will be nice if they can promote sports and introduce them into institutions where people can develop, scout talent and reach out to more people and create an enabling environment where talents can be discovered.