England forward Eniola Aluko says she is determined to inspire young players after facing tough times in her youth days. She says her abilities were doubted when she was younger and she wants younger players to have a better experience.
“There comes a point where you have to be ok with what you do,” Aluko said. “As a woman you’ve got to be ok with the fact that you play football and at a younger age, I wasn’t. I wasn’t comfortable with being a footballer, even though I was good.”
Aluko will be part of an England team that has aspirations of a best-ever finish at the Women’s World Cup this year in Canada. She is closing in on her 100th cap with the team and she has 32 goals, good for fifth most in England history and second among active players.
“I played for boys’ teams which was great until it became an issue with opposition coaches,” Aluko said. “They’d say, ‘Oh you can’t have a girl playing, where are the rules that say girls can play?’ I think that’s why I had issues accepting the fact that I was a good footballer. I used to say I played tennis instead because of Venus and Serena Williams, people thought they were great.”
“As I got older, I also had a few of my own coaches that didn’t believe in me and said I wouldn’t make it. That stuck with me. I use those things now to motivate me and drive me on.”
Part of Aluko’s initiatives include joining with Continental Tyres for The FA’s Girl’s Football Festivals, aimed at inspiring young females age 5-16 at taking on the sport.
“You have to realize that, as a role model to young girls, you will affect their behavior in some way,” she said. “For me, I see being a role model as a responsibility, if you are aware of that in everything you do then you’re going to make better decisions and you’re going to affect people in a positive way.”
Eniola Aluko is on the #RoadToCanada, supported by Continental Tyres.
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