Nigerian tennis legend Funke Oshonaike has sensationally revealed her travails growing up saying she was sexually abused and beaten by a man 10 years older than her while studying at the University of Lagos.
She also disclosed that she was heartbroken when she caught her boyfriend in bed with another girl, a day before making the trip to Sydney for the 2000 Olympics and won an African championship despite carrying a pregnancy.
The veteran of six Olympics, who made the revelations on her Facebook page, also stated how she escaped being stabbed by a mob after beating archrival and crowd favourite Biola Odumosu in a championship in Lagos, as well as having her heartthrob killed while on vacation in Lagos, with just three months to their wedding.
She said after getting a lot of discouraging messages from people, she decided to blow the lid open on her struggles, insisting that as a “superwoman”, she never gave up despite not being rewarded by the table tennis authorities after bringing honour to the country.
“I’ve been spending my money to represent Nigeria lately and I can’t remember the last time I was paid any allowance or the last time I was rewarded for winning for my country. I’m very hurt about a lot of things that’s happening in sports in Nigeria but because of the love I have for my country, I’m still trying my best to keep on keeping on. That’s my decision,” she stated.
“I got pregnant during my career and I was confused about what to do but I kept it and I was still playing professionally till I was seven months pregnant, which is like a taboo in Nigeria! I even played the African championship and won it, though nobody knew I was pregnant! That was my decision.
“I gave birth to my first child in 2003 and I played at the All Africa Games the same year and won four gold medals for Nigeria. My child was barely six months old. That was my decision.
“I started representing Nigeria at the age of 14. I give God almighty the glory for this talent and all that I’ve achieved today. These are some of the downs in my life that made me a strong woman: I was physically, sexually, emotionally and mentally abused by a man that was 10 years older than me. This man beat me for more than three years and I remember always going to UNILAG with a battered face, but I still never gave up on table tennis , men or living. That was my decision.
“I went to see my boyfriend of 10 years and I saw him sleeping in bed with his girlfriend! I was heartbroken! The next day I had to travel to Australia, (for) Sydney 2000. I cried all the way from Nigeria to Australia but I never gave up on men and my training. That was my decision.
“I was duped of all my property and my bank account was in his name(olodoFunke). I left everything without looking back and I started my life all over again. It was very hard for me, but that was my decision.
“I fell in love again with my best friend here in Germany. Three months to our wedding, he went to Nigeria on holidays and he was shot by armed robbers! I went through hell here in Germany without him. I mourned him for two years, stopped going to Nigeria because of him but still never gave up on table tennis and living. That was my decision.”
Oshonaike, Team Nigeria’s flag bearer at the 2016 Olympics, added, “I was always booed every time I played a competition back then in Nigeria because I was very shy! I asked why and I was told that I was proud, arrogant, blunt and that I don’t mix with people. I’m talking about Funke at the age of 13 till 19.
“I cried a lot, went through a lot, and there was even a time the crowd was going to stab me in Lagos because I defeated their darling Biola Odumosu, my archrival back then at Rowe Park. My number one fan, my dad, consoled me and still never gave up on table tennis in Nigeria. (It was) My decision.
“I was born in the 70s and I know one thing for sure that people born in the 70s don’t give up on things easily. So, to some of you discouraging me, you’re just encouraging me indirectly because I’ve gone through a lot in my life that has made me stronger than you. Live your life and allow others do the same. I am not giving up on my dreams…TOKYO 2020, HERE I COME.”