Aondona Comfort Msurshima, age eight years old, is barely ten months old in the game of handball but she was the synocure of all eyes with her heroic and daring saves, at the recently concluded National U-12, U-15 boys and girls handball championship held in Sokoto, reports ADENIYI OLUGBEMI.
Not till she appeared on the podium, with braided hair style to receive the U-12 girls first runners up trophy on behalf of her team at the closing ceremony of the weeklong age grade handball fiesta, where twenty five teams participated, that doubts on her gender was put to rest.
A cross section of spectators, who followed her outstanding performances that finally earned her team, Gboko Dream Girls, the U-12 girls category second position at the championship mistook her for a male because of her athletic, tom- boyish look, with dreadlock hair style she adorned, throughout the championship.
Asked how and why she chooses handball, Aondona, currently a primary three pupil of Hope Academy, Jato Aka, Benue state, attributed her journey into the game to fate. According to her, she naively set out to exercise the youthful energy in her, incidentally, her gender threw her into the handball court.
“Like every bubbling and energetic child, my desire was to explore alongside my mates on the playground until fate catch up with me and other girls, when the boys started segregation against us by not allowing us to play football. They will tell us to go and play handball, that they assume to be the girl-child game. Incidentally, there is a handball court close to my school. We maximised the proximity of the handball court and here we are today, some of us taking part in competition of a game, we were pushed into barely ten months ago.
“This is how destiny entrusted us into the waiting hands of Coach Godwin Tondo, who bought for me, my first kits, when she saw my seriousness and the determination of other girls in the game. Within a short while, handball fetched me my first earning of one thousand naira, during the All Primary Schools Game held in Kwande local government, in November last year.
“Now that handball had given me my first earning, first trip outside Benue state and through many states, trophy and medal including the attendant publicity and exposure, I can confidently say, there is no going back to the game of handball. I intend to pursue a career in handball alongside my education. I wish to play at the international level, representing Nigeria. I want to explore handball as a means of alternative livelihood to at least, assist my family.
“I still recalled how my mother, a peasant farmer, who is solely responsible for the upkeep of us, four siblings, where I am the third child, showered me with prayers when I handed to her, my first earning of one thousand naira,” she narrated.
The youthful shot-stopper was downcasted, when she was asked of her father. It took her a while to gather enough strength after fighting back tears, responding thus, “he died five years ago, when herdsmen invaded our village, in Jato Aka.”
In an emotion laden tone, Aondona recalled that, “though a peasant farmer, my father ensure that he meets the needs of his family with earnings from his farm produce. Unfortunately, he died of sickness, compounded with inability to access medicare due to insecurity. His death was painful.
“My father died of sickness five years ago, as he could not access medicare at the health facility due to insecurity caused by herdsmen invasion of our village, where health workers who survived the onslaught deserted the health facility in the village.”