“I never played with dolls… I literally copied my brothers on anything. My mom loved it because she wouldn’t have to worry about me. I would just be out of the house chasing them.”
Arsenal Ladies have completed the signing of forward Chioma Ubogagu from Stanford University in the United States.
She made 89 appearances during her four years at the college, scoring 27 goals and finishing fourth in the all-time Stanford assist list with 37. She captained the side in her final year.
A United States youth international, Ubogagu helped her country to victory in the 2012 Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan.
“More than anything, she’s always been a talented player,” Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “But this year, her leadership of the entire team has been incredible. She’s really been a leader by example, vocally, and off the field. She’s creating a good atmosphere for the whole squad.”
Arsenal Ladies Manager Pedro Martinez Losa is delighted to welcome her to the club: “Chioma is a player I have known about from my time coaching in the United States and she is a fantastic talent. She is very creative, and is able to make goals as well as score them. I think that she will fit in very well with us.”
Raised in Texas but born in London, Ubogagu is a lifelong Arsenal supporter. Her football origins trace back to her grandfather, Austin Eneuke, who played for the Nigerian national team and England’s Tottenham Hotspurs. Chioma’s parents moved from Nigeria to London for job opportunities and that’s where Chioma was born. “Chioma” means, “in God’s presence.” Her background has given her the choice to represent Nigeria or England in international play, as well as the U.S.
When Chioma was 3, her parents filed for divorce and Chioma along with her older brothers, Oggy and Okwus, moved to Texas where her mother, Tina, had a friend with a lead on a nursing job.
“My brothers played for their schools when we were in London,” Chioma said. “I always wanted to do what they did. And, when I came to the States, I still wanted to do what they did, except they got carried away with this thing called football. I loved the game and that’s all I wanted to do.
“I never played with dolls,” she said. “I literally copied my brothers on anything. My mom loved it because she wouldn’t have to worry about me. I would just be out of the house chasing them.”
In Copell, Texas, a suburb just north of Dallas International Airport, Ubogagu dominated area leagues. She appeared destined to step up to a more competitive level. However, Tina, a neonatal intensive care nurse raising three children as a single mom, did not have the understanding of local football hierarchy and didn’t necessarily have the time to find out.
David Hansen, whose daughter played on a team led by Ubogagu, recognized Ubogagu’s ability and was aware of the danger that she might not be given the opportunity to fulfill her potential.
Without prompting, he got the family’s phone number and reached out to Tina, to convince her that he should take Chioma, along with his daughter, to a select club tryout. Tina had no idea who he was and ignored the message. However, Hansen was persistent, and after several months, finally reached her.
“Your daughter’s really good. She needs this opportunity.” he told her.
“Without him, there’s no way my football would have gone the way it has,” Ubogagu said.
Ubogagu arrived at Stanford considering a career in medicine, and while still on a pre-med tract, she is majoring in film and media studies. Last winter, she landed an internship at DreamWorks Animation, the film production company that produced Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon.
Ubogagu is interested in animation or live action film editing. At Stanford, she has produced a series of video promos for the team that are funny and clever, and seems to be always conferring with her teammates to come up with new ideas.