Ifeanyi Chiejine is the youngest-ever footballer to play in a FIFA Women’s World Cup match. The Nigerian forward made the record during the 1999 edition in the US when she came on as a substitute against North Korea in a 2-1 group stage win on June 21 at the age of 16 years 34 days.
Nigeria, also known as the ‘Super Falcons’, eventually lost 3-4 to Brazil via a golden goal in the quarterfinals that year.
Nicknamed ‘Smally’, Chiejine also represented the national team in the 2003 and 2007 tournaments in the US and China.
Youngest player in a Women’s World Cup qualifier
She was a part of the side that played in the 2000 and 2008 Olympics, the 9th All-Africa Games in Algiers in 2007 and won four Women’s Africa Cup of Nations titles. She scored 18 goals in 68 matches for the country.
She was the first-ever captain of the Nigeria under-19 women’s national team and led it in the inaugural FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup (the upper age limit for the competition was later raised to 20 and the event renamed FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup).
Chiejine passed away at the age of 36 in 2019 in Lagos after a long illness.
“This is huge shock. We had no idea that she was sick,” Nigeria Football Federation General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi said in a statement post her death.
“Ifeanyi was one of the most naturally gifted players to have featured for the Super Falcons. Her death at such a young age is a big blow.
“She gave 100 percent of her ability and capacity each time she turned out for country. We will always remember her as a bundle of skill and energy, and as a patriotic individual who wore the green-white-green with a smile every time.”
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