Authentic Ladies of Douala defender Fikuin Chahkes Odette, has disclosed that becoming a mother was key in shaping her career and improving her hunger for success.
The 23-year-old defender has been in superlative fettle for her Douala-based outfit this season, but says by a whisker she almost gave up on her footballing dreams if she hadn’t been subjected to the challenges of motherhood.
2016 was a rollercoaster year in Chahkes’ life and football career. She tasted success, leaving secondary school courtesy of a pass in the GCE Ordinary Level. But this success was followed by a dip when the pacy footballer got pregnant and was forced to flee from her native hometown due to the persistent socio-political crisis in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.
The pregnancy led to a number of challenges as she narrated in a conversation with kick442.com this Friday.
“My mum wasn’t happy when I took in. However, she was very supportive after a few months and guided me through the process. It was a very difficult period. You can imagine! I was just 17. However, I took a vow to come back stronger and show my resilience through football,” Chahkes revealed.
In many parts of Cameroon where the stereotypes against women footballers are still very present, pregnancy for many footballers marks the end of their careers.
“When I noticed I was pregnant I didn’t stop playing. I saw a doctor who carried out the routine checks after which he told me I was allowed to practice sports. I continued playing until when the pregnancy was six months old,” the versatile Right-back added.
Talking about comebacks, Odette resumed training within months after putting to bed and was more determined.
“I started personal training within months after I put to bed. The medical experts gave me the go-ahead too so I was very motivated.
“It took some time for me to regain my fitness especially as I was still breastfeeding my son. However, by the grace of God I played my first competitive game when my son was four months old.”
Chahkes featured for Boyo Progressive Ladies FC in the Northwest Regional championship season defining fixtures in the end of the 2017 season.
Her performance during the tail of that season earned a move to ambitious Vision Sports of Bamenda were she became a cult hero.
Chahkes’ dedication quickly made her a regular at Vision Sports. She was part of the team that charged to the top-flight championship during the 2019 season and was named player of the season – less than two years after becoming a mother as a teenager.
“My journey is the reason behind my motivation. It is the reason behind my commitment and attitude in games and during training. Every time I am on the pitch, I play as if its a final,” the mother of the six-year-old boy added.
Chahkes spent four years at Vision Sports and was the club’s deputy skipper in the 2021 season as they finished sixth in the Guinness Super League. She played all but two games that term as a left and right back.
She secured a move to Authentic Ladies in the build up to the current season, alongside Tim Shalom Makoma – her mate at Vision Sports and both have been a mainstay under coach Fagnia Fagnia Fernandez.
Odette’s journey to the top hasn’t been all rosy, but she has defied the odds and remains determined to go all the way even as a mother.
Having children has been pushed back by most footballers until retirement, for a number of reasons.
Some opt to wait until their careers draw to a close, mindful of how short a footballing career can be coupled with the physical and mental demands linked to practicing the sport. Add to that the shocking lack of maternity rights, financial worries and a fear of being sidelined or replaced.
Former USA Women’s team players Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy as well as the England duo Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey all waited until their playing careers were over before starting a family, but Chahkes, like Indomitable Lions left back Falone Meffomettou and legendary goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom opted for otherwise.
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