Women's Football Might Just Have A Problem With Racism, According To Eni Aluko

The FA faces backlash

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If you don't follow women's sport (or, you know, any sport), then you night not know Eni Aluko.

She has played over 100 matches for the England team, she's been nicknamed 'The Lionesses,' and she was their highest scorer in the 2016-17 season.

Despite this, the player believes she was less celebrated for her sporting prowess than other women and she alleges that this was down to her race.

Eni Aluko
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In her words, 'these are what my claims are – i.e. discrimination, victimisation, bullying.'

Back in 2015, Aluko accused her manager, Mark Sampson, of a racist comment towards her, but has been unable to speak out until now, due to an £80,000 confidentiality agreement the Football Association gave her to sign.

She told the Guardian that before she was set to play Germany in November 2014, Sampson and herself had an exchange that went something like this:

We were in the hotel. Everybody was excited. It was a big game. On the wall, there was a list of the family and friends who were coming to watch us and I just happened to be next to Mark. He asked me if I had anyone who would be there and I said I had family coming over from Nigeria. 'Oh,' he said. 'Nigeria? Make sure they don't bring Ebola with them.'

Eni Aluko

Understandably, Aluko was shocked by this comment. She continued:

I remember laughing, but in a very nervous way. I went back to my room and I was really upset. It might have been easier to take if it was about me alone. Lots of things had been said about me over those two years but this was about my family. I called my mum and she was absolutely disgusted.

Unfortunately, this isn't the only comment Aluko alleges Sampson made during her time under his management.

She describes in her interview another situation, in which Sampson allegedly made a racially insensitive comment to her mixed-raced teammate (who does not want to be named) at the China Cup in 2015:

Mark Sampson made an analogy about getting a caution, like a police caution. Mark then addressed her individually and said: 'You've been arrested before, haven't you? Four times, isn't it?' He didn't say it to anybody else. It was said to her alone, the only mixed-race player in the room. Every other player was white. She confirmed she felt extremely uncomfortable. I believe that question was directed towards her because she's mixed race.

Mark Sampson and the FA deny that these comments were made, and Aluko believes that the FA's inquiry was unsubstantial.

Eni Aluko

One of her main qualms with the inquiry was that they seem not to have contacted the mixed-race player about whom the comments were made.

Aluko's 11 year England career ended a mere week after she detailed these experiences (and more) in what she thought was a confidential report to the FA in a 'culture review.'

Sampson said he was dropping her for 'unlionness behaviour'.

The FA denies to two are related.

Mark Sampson

Aluko believes there is a wider issue with race within the FA at play, naming a list of black players who she believes are mysteriously absent from national teams. She closes her Guardian article with a moving statement:

I've been at Chelsea five years and been the butt of many jokes. And I give it back sometimes. That is the beauty of team spirit in a healthy dressing room. I'm not a sensitive, precious person. I've been in the [England] team for 11 years, I've been through ups and downs. I've played for boys' teams. I've played for Chelsea, at the top level, and I've been dropped by Chelsea before but I can recognise something toxic when I see it. This is a culture that has systematically dismissed certain players. There is lots of talk about being the most together team in the world – I've truly never felt so isolated as I was in that team between 2014 and 2016.

Hopefully people will listen to Aluko's dissenting voice.

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