CHELSEA FOOTBALLER Eniola Aluko has won many accolades during a glittering career and another gong is within reach this weekend when she attends the British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards (BEDSAs), which take place on February 6.
Eniola is a Sportswoman of the Year nominee at the glittering ceremony which takes place at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel in London’s Park Lane.
The Lagos-born 28-year-old recalled her early days in the beautiful game, telling The Voice: “I realised I was very good at football from an early age and I was the only girl in the boy’s school team.
“It started from there really and I was then in an all girls team at my school when I was 12. I then signed for Birmingham when I was 14.”
However, football almost lost Eniola to another sport as she also played tennis when she was growing up.
“I played tennis when I was growing up when I was 14 and 15,” she recalls. “I really enjoyed the sport but I did not have the patience I needed with tennis and I started to get very frustrated with myself. I think football was the right choice for me.”
The forward has played for Birmingham and Charlton amongst others as well as a stint in the United States. She joined the Stamford Bridge outfit in 2014 and came close to winning the league in the same year.
She finally achieved that feat with them last year and it was an emotional time.
“It is hard to describe really,” she says. “I felt that pure joy. I do not know if you have ever felt it before.
“I felt that feeling that you cannot describe after so much hard work and psychological energy when you really wanted it badly.”
“For me I knew that Chelsea were the best team in the country but we had to prove it. There were a lot of people who said we couldn’t do it but we did it.”
The affable Eniola, whose brother Sone plays for Championship side Hull, was part of the England team that won bronze in the Women’s World Cup last year in Canada, although she did not get a lot of game time.
She has some 90 international caps to her name but the tournament, on a personal level, was a challenging experience.
“I think it is always difficult when you don’t play because you have worked so hard to play.
“For me it was really hard because I felt I was in form going into the tournament. I felt like I was really ready to be effective for the team. For me it is part of being a professional athlete.
“You really are judged on how you deal with the disappointment. For me it was more a test that would make me stronger.
She said getting a bronze at the end of the tournament “was a real silver lining”.
“That is going to be with me for the rest of my life and a memory,” she said.
“The disappointment of not playing shouldn’t overshadow a bronze medal. There is mixed emotions but ultimately winning a bronze medal is the most important thing for the team and me as well.”
WORDS: Ayo Odumade