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Edna, photographed in Rincón de la Victoria.
The dream that began on a migrant boat

The dream that began on a migrant boat

Malaga forward Edna was brought to Spain by her mother at three months of age and grew up in Carmona where she came to love football

MARINA RIVAS

Tuesday, 5 November 2019, 12:49

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In order to understand the present, we must begin with the past. In Edna Imade's case, we have to go back to before she was born. She is the fruit of the suffering and desperation of a brave mother, who, like thousands of others each year, decided she had no choice but to flee a country that was mired in war and had nothing to offer the average person but misery. In this Nigerian woman's eyes, she had no choice but to risk a voyage over sea with her three-month-old twins, Edna and Paul, watching one coastline fade out of sight without knowing whether she would ever see another. Making that voyage in January 2001 could have been the worst decision in her life; as it was, the God she put her trust in granted her something as close to a miracle as she could have hoped for.

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS

  • Favourite singer or band. MHD, who make Afro Trap music, and Vegedream. Both of them sing in French.

  • Favourite film or series. The series would have to be 'La que se avecina', and the film Now You See Me 2.

  • If you were a superhero, you'd be... Black Panther or Catwoman.

  • Any pre-match rituals or superstitions. No, I just pray when I step onto the pitch. I'm an evangelical Christian.

  • Second favourite sport. Athletics.

  • Your sporting hero. Ronaldinho is a legend.

  • Something you'd like to learn. Breakdancing.

  • If you weren't a footballer you'd be... A dancer, I think.

  • In 10 years you'll be... Still playing football and having finished my studies too.

Nineteen years later, the girl who arrived in Algericas after a rough journey on a migrant boat is playing football for Malaga in the Spanish Second Division. All she knows of the journey she made as a baby is what her mother has told her. "She told me she wanted to get out of Nigeria, that things were very bad there. So she crossed the Sahara while pregnant with us, and she arrived in Morocco, where she waited three months before she could make the crossing."

Edna was astonished by this story, because in truth Nigeria has left little mark on her; she is far more Spanish. She grew up in Seville, and simply greeting her is enough to notice her strong Andalusian accent. Her mother and twin brother are not her only family, however. She has two older brothers and a father she has never met who all still live in Nigeria. "My dad arrived in Algeciras with us, but they threw him in jail and then deported him as soon as he arrived. I guess they let us stay because we were babies," she tells me. To this day she has still not set foot in Nigeria. She speaks to her brothers on Facebook, although they only speak English; she says that she can more or less understand them. "I've never gone back there. My mum wants to go and visit my family, but I'm scared of going back, because of the wars and all the other stuff you see on the news." One can hardly blame her for being apprehensive. When Nigeria makes the news, it is often for the violent acts of radical Islamists, corruption in the oil industry, poverty, or sex trafficking.

A new beginning

Her life was never like this, and she is sad that it is still a reality for many. When asked what she can remember of her childhood, Edna says she spent a year in a reception centre run by nuns, before moving to Seville, where her mother got her first job. The family then moved again, this time to Carmona. Her mother now does casual work as a cleaner, as well as selling clothes at traffic lights in the city. Meanwhile, Edna and Paul (who is studying Sports Dcience at college) help out where they can. "We do get some help paying the bills, and the Red Cross gives us food. Last year, as well as studying administration, I worked as a referee in kids' football matches. I'd have liked to have carried on, but I want to have a career as a footballer myself."

This is not a new ambition for her. She got into football when she joined a kids' side in Carmona with her brother, playing there from six to 14 years old. She then briefly tried her hand at futsal, and spent the last two seasons in the Andalusian second division, where she scored almost a hundred goals for Nervión.

Her skill and physical qualities caught the attention of several clubs and agents, and the agency SQH managed to get her a deal at Malaga. "I still haven't scored a league goal. The step up has been big, and at the start I was struggling. I'd never trained daily before, and I also didn't know how to analyse tactics and rivals with videos. This stuff is all new to me."

On Malaga's slow start to the season, which saw them draw their three opening games, she said: "I think we just get overwhelmed. We feel the pressure to get promoted, and we get nervous when we concede. But we just need time." Malaga is Edna's first big challenge as a footballer, and who knows whether it will be the start of an illustrious career. But whatever the future holds for the striker, it's clear how far she and her family have already come. Facing your fears head on can pay off.

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