Eniola Aluko on how reporting racism has empowered her to find forgiveness

Juventus forward and former England international Eniola Aluko has released a book all about her career and the racism storm she found herself at the centre of. Here she talks to The Offside Rule Exclusives about why she’s written a book and how her career and experiences have shaped her, writes Charlotte Duncker

Eniola Aluko has used her new book to forgive former England manager Mark Sampson and called on more to be done to tackle racism in society. 

The Juventus forward accused Sampson of racism, harassment and bullying in the Lionesses camp in 2016 and has not played for the national team since. A second FA investigation found Sampson guilty of making racist remarks to Aluko and fellow England international Drew Spence.

Speaking to the Offside Rule Exclusives Aluko upon publication of her autobiography They Don’t Teach This, she said she had received an apology from the former England boss. “One of the big lessons of my book is forgiveness,” she said. “I was challenged with the opportunity to forgive. I said to myself, you can say all you like that you’re over it and you’ve forgiven [him]… but I was very angry for a long time. And I had to be like, listen, do you want to stay angry forever or do you want to get over it?”

And the 32-year-old is hoping others can learn from her experience after she stood up to the Football Association.

“I feel that I was put on this earth to be somebody who did what I did,” Aluko said. 

“And, although it wasn’t easy and it was kind of accidental in a way, I’m actually grateful for that experience because it has made me into who I am. It’s given me many lessons that I’m able to talk about in the book and hopefully pass on to somebody else.”

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Aluko’s experience of racism in the game sadly hasn’t ended and the former England international reveals she still gets abuse on social media. After Premier League players Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Tammy Abraham were abused on Twitter recently, conversation has continued as to what needs to be done to eradicate racist trolls and Aluko has called for stadiums to close to prove a point. 

“I believe stadium closures can come into the Premier League,” Aluko said. “It sounds controversial, but it’s not because it already happens. 

“In Eastern Europe, it’s already happening. We’re very good at reporting that when it happens [elsewhere], when it’s not on our doorstep. But racism is happening on our doorstep, in our stadiums.

“I don’t want to put a number on it, but now and again, yeah, I get racist tweets. Sometimes if I search my name. I mean, people don’t necessary tag me and then do it. But if you search yourself, you’ll see racist stuff.”

So what next for Aluko? She’s currently plying her trade at Juventus, ending last season a double winner and the Italian side’s top scorer, but accepts that either this season or next will probably be her last.

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“Now, I’ve probably got maybe one year, two maximum, left to play, if that. I know this might be my last season. I say that because I’m very okay with that,” she said. 

Aluko gained a first-class law degree while playing and has combined working as a lawyer with her football career.

“I think using legal skills in a football context is really fascinating for me. I just finished my masters with UEFA, to learn how to become a sporting director. So that is something on my agenda.

“I’ve never been one to go into coaching. I don’t think I’ve ever thought I could be a good coach, but I’m definitely somebody who can oversee legal commercial recruitment, setting culture. I’m really passionate about that.

Eniola Aluko was speaking to The Offside Rule Exclusives upon publication of her autobiography They Don’t Teach This (Yellow Jersey Press, £14.99). 

The Offside Rule Exclusives is a monthly podcast series from the makers of The Offside Rule (We Get It!).

You can listen to the full episode with Eni Aluko on Audioboom

Or download via iTunes

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