Iyabo Abade was raised as a girl in a village in the then Bendel state, in southeast Nigeria.
From age 11, she became the top scorer for the Super Falcons womens’ football team, the Nigerian national team, netting over 30 goals a season.
However suspicions about her gender led to a confrontation with team-mates and a ‘tearful’ admission that she has an adam’s apple and small male genitals. A sex-test then determined that she was more male than female.
She was barred from football in 1998, but continued as a coach for a female team.
As James Johnson, he became male in 2004 with an operation at Midway Hospital (now the Olympia Medical Center), Los Angeles by a team led by Dr Gary Alter. The operation cost 5.9 millions nairas ($29,000) and was funded by the Municipal Affairs Department of the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory.
Aftewards James tried out for different football clubs, usually in competition against other men and often won a place, but after they find out who he is, they wonder: "Can she cope in the midst of guys?” despite having picked him for doing just that. And they don't let him play anymore.
In 2012 he did a US tour as coach of the female Marasata Soccer Academy.
In 2013 he mentored two sisters with a similar intersex condition, who are also football players.
He is currently trying to raise money for final surgery.
"I chose to become a man because it is what God wants me to be. I didn’t use money as my priority in opting to be a man. If it was for money reasons, I would have remained as a woman because I was getting to the top of female football in Nigeria. I am happy with the decision I took. If I became a female, I probably wouldn’t have been happy with my life. So I just decided to move on. I am not regretting the step I made. I can tell you, women are running after me like Usain Bolt and I think it is better for me. I like it that way. I never expected it that way. Today, I am pleased that people want to know me."
- Adekunle Salami. “Falcons player changes from woman to man”. The Punch. Feb 11 2005. http://odili.net/news/source/2005/feb/11/505.html.
- Oluwashina Okelej. "Breaking new boundaries". BBC, 13 April 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/africa/4441137.stm.
- Tana Aiyejina. "Women chase me around like Usain Bolt — Johnson". Punch, 18 August 2013. www.punchng.com/sports/women-chase-me-around-like-usain-bolt-johnson.