Former England player Eni Aluko speaks out passionately on racism, diversity and her darkest moment in football

Eni Aluko moved to Juventus in 2018 following 17 years playing in England (PA Images)
Eni Aluko moved to Juventus in 2018 following 17 years playing in England (PA Images)
11:04am, Wed 28 Aug 2019
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Former England striker Eni Aluko has spoken candidly about the extremely difficult circumstances that surrounded her departure from the national team.

The ex-Chelsea forward was paid £80,000 by The FA back in 2016 despite a barrister stating she had insufficient evidence to support her claims of racism and bullying by England manager Mark Sampson.

Sampson was later sacked from his position after there was found to be 'clear evidence of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour', but Aluko said the time prior to his departure when her teammates did not believe her accusations was really tough.

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, she said: “That was the lowest part for me.

“I remember sitting in my car, crying my eyes out. I was deeply, deeply upset."

Aluko was referencing the game against Russia when a number of the England players had celebrated with Sampson in what she believes was a premeditated declaration of solidarity with the coach.

“It wasn’t so much the celebration as the timing that I thought was shocking. Celebrations are calculated. I don’t believe this was spontaneous. It was premeditated," she added.

"That’s the part I worry about because that means the team have decided, ‘We’re going with the line that Eni Aluko is not one of us’. In a context of me calling out racism, they were effectively saying, ‘We don’t care’. That’s what it represented to me.

"We had a difficult conversation. They were being told I was a liar.”

Mark Sampson was the manager of the Lionesses between 2013 and 2017 (PA Images)

However, even after she was proven to have been telling the truth, surprisingly Aluko in no way wishes to confront her former manager.

She said: “Honestly, I think that if I bumped into Mark tomorrow, I would genuinely say, ‘Fair play. Move on with your life’.

"I never set out to destroy anyone, or to get him sacked. I set out to change a culture that was damaging, not just to me but to a few other people of colour.

"There are four people I can point to: Anita Asante, Lianne Sanderson, Drew Spence, me. All of us said something against the grain – and none of us played for England again. That says it all.”

The lack of diversity in the national team is also something Aluko wants to address - after only two of the 11 who started England's World Cup semi-final match against the USA were ethnic minorities - the only two in the entire 23-woman squad.

“I’m not the person who’s going to say somebody should be picked just because of the colour of their skin," she said.

“But in a country like England, which is so multicultural, there are either not enough people of colour playing the women’s game, or they’re not getting picked.

"I don’t like it. I prefer to see a team that reflects society a lot more. Since I left the team, it has got worse."

Aluko documents her entire career, with all the trials and tribulations, in her new book They Don't Teach This which is published on Thursday, August 29.

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