There are not many professional footballers in Nigeria that can boast of having a degree on one hand and a ball on the other. Blessing Dabrinze is however proud to be in the number.
The Banking and Finance graduate of the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri, Imo State was part of the recently concluded National Youth Service Corp three-week Orientation camp exercise in Taraba State.
In the first half of the 2016/17 Nigeria Women Premier League season, Dabrinze defended the colours of Ibom Angels – a team she had just joined from Bayelsa Queens – starting almost every game and scoring one goal. But in spite of her contributions to the team, she was released in mid-season. And it still baffles and infuriates Coach Whyte Ogbonda that the Uyo-based club’s management could make such a decision.
Now that NYSC Orientation camp is over, she is still not certain what the future holds but she disclosed that some clubs have approached her for her services ahead of the second half of the season which starts on June 21.
Meanwhile, in this interview with LadiesMarch, she speaks about herself, her journey in football and how she managed to combine her passion with education.
LadiesMarch (LM): Who is Blessing Dabrinze?
Blessing Dabrinze (BD): I am Blessing Dabrinze, born into the family of late Prince Joseph and Mrs Chinyere Dabrinze of Ikeduru LGA in Imo State. The only girl and last child in a family of three. I started my education at an early age at GoeTina Montessori Nursery School, Akwakuma. Then did my primary education at Shell Camp Primary School Owerri. Comprehensive Development Secondary School Owerri was where I started my secondary education and finished at God’s Provide Secondary School, Awkunanaw, Enugu State. After my secondary education, I got admission into the prestigious Federal Polytechnic Nekede Owerri, Imo State.
LM: Could you tell us about your love for football? How it all started and the journey so far.
BD: It all started in Primary Four when I was selected for an interclass football match. After the match I was singled out as the best player and later represented Owerri Municipal in a zonal football competition. The little experience then and the love I now developed for the sport made me to pick up from there and since then it’s been quite an amazing journey.
I started from Pepsi Academy Owerri. From there to Martins White Doves of Benin in Edo State. I started my professional career with Bayelsa Queens and played for four years before moving to Ibom Angels.
While in school, I only played for Bayelsa Queens.
LM: What is your nickname and how did you get it?
BD: My nickname is Eto’o. I got it when I was in secondary school because I always wore Samuel Eto’o’s Cameroon Jersey while playing football in school.
LM: What challenges have you faced in following your dream of playing football?
BD: The first challenge was from my family. Being the only girl in the family they wanted the very best for me. Playing football then was seen as an act of unseriousness. I could recall being beaten several times by my elder brother for playing football, as he felt it could be a distraction to my studies. Not that I wasn’t doing well in school, (but) the thought of being maybe a dropout was the sole aim of the beatings. The second challenge was finance as it was difficult for me then to buy my football kits and pay transport fares to go for trainings etc.
LM: Did your studies at the Polytechnic suffer because of football?
BD: Yes it did. My academics suffered a lot due to football. I recall participating in a particular NIPOGA (Nigeria Polytechnic Games) in Auchi, during that period lectures were ongoing likewise tests and assignments and on our return we weren’t given any preferential treatment.
LM: So, how did you manage to combine football and studies or did you have to pause football at some point?
BD: It was quite a herculean task combining both because my academics suffered so much when I was playing for Bayelsa Queens. I barely attend lectures, missed some tests and didn’t meet up in the submission of some assignments. I mostly bought my textbooks, studied alone and prepared for exams.
LM: Do you feel satisfied that you have your degree?
BD: Why not? Who wouldn’t be?
LM: You recently concluded your NYSC orientation camp in Taraba. What was the experience like?
BD: It was educating, interesting and fun filled. I had the opportunity to try new things.
LM: You even played Volleyball in camp, was that the first time you were playing another sport apart from football?
BD: Yes it was.
LM: Did you also play football in camp?
BD: Yes I did.
LM: Now, orientation camp is over, what’s next especially with regards to football?
BD: I don’t know for now.
LM: Why do you think you were released by Ibom Angels?
BD: Honestly, I don’t know. I’m sure the management of Ibom Angels will be in a better position to answer this question.
LM: While you were there, were you being treated unfairly?
LM: What are your aspirations as a footballer?
BD: To represent my country and play at the highest level.
LM: Have you ever played abroad before?
LM: Apart from football, which other career path have you taken or will you be taking?
BD: Fashion and Designs (NYSC- SAED PROGRAMME).
LM: While growing up, what did you want to become?
BD: A dancer, a lawyer.
LM: Who is/are your role models in football?
BD: Stephen Gerald, Kanu Nwankwo, Francisca Ordega and Perpertua Nkwocha.
LM: If you had the opportunity to change one decision in your life, what would that be?
BD: None that I can remember.
LM: What is your advice on education for younger footballers?
BD: My advice for younger footballers is for them to persevere with their studies. They shouldn’t give up on the idea of acquiring education. Though it won’t be easy and smooth sailing but with determination and dedication the sky will be their starting point as education will help broaden their horizon.
LM: Thank you so much for your time.
BD: Thank you!
P.S.: In June 2014, Blessing Dabrinze was identified as a “top young talent In Nigerian women’s football”.
Blessing Dabrinze featured in LadiesMarch TV’s Official 2016/2017 NWPL Trailer. See video below.