“Women’s football has always been brilliant, it’s just had a lack of exposure”
-Photo Credit- Jamie Smed
The secret to her recent form . . .
"I think I am just relaxed, I've been playing professionally for four years now and this is the first time that I've been in the same place for back-to-back seasons. Before, I had changed teams or switched cities but coming to this environment where I already knew the girls really helped. I'm just having fun with it, relaxing and trying to keep it simple."
Playing with the big names in her Orlando Pride squad . . .
"Huge names aren't there! My first year I was happy because I got to play with Kelly Smith who is a huge name and she is brilliant on and off the field. Then the next year I got to play with Carli Lloyd and she was super cool. It's just crazy that each year I am playing with people who have been to World Cups, been to an Olympics and have played at the highest level. I realise how blessed I am just to be in this position to learn from some of the best in the game and to see their habits everyday".
Where her love for the sport comes from . . .
"For me, I was born in England but moved when I was young to the States. I have two older brothers and funnily enough I just copied everything that they did and they would always go to the back yard and play. I would just mimic them, I wouldn't touch dolls, I was just always trying to kick the ball. Plus my dad was a huge Tottenham fan and one day he was watching the North London Derby and he told my brother to cheer on the team in white. But my brother liked the team in red so I copied him from there too and became an Arsenal fan!"
How it felt to go on to play for Arsenal, as a fan herself . . .
"Honestly it was a dream and it was God's doing, right out of the blue. I went out to London for ten days to just train with the team and you could see players like Alexis Sanchez, Hector Bellerin coming into the training ground smiling and it was crazy. it was seriously a dream come true and I was so grateful for that opportunity, I couldn't have asked for anything better in my first professional year."
How the US Women's Soccer League compares to the English Women's Super League . . .
"It's tough to put into words because it is different and both of them are challenging in their own ways. I think in England, because football is the main sport, it's part of the culture, there's a knowledge of technical and tactical understanding that is superior. it's almost like a chess match every game and then I think here in America the athleticism is on another level. I think they are just very different and I'm grateful to have tipped my toe in both. it's helped to shape my game."
Choosing allegiance between the US, England and Nigeria . . .
"Yes so my parents are Nigerian and then like I said, I was born in England, but I became a US citizen when I was seventeen. So it's tough because I truly think that I am a hybrid of all three, they all shape me in my personality and the person that I try to be everyday. I eat Nigerian food all of the time, my love for football really came from England and then I've lived in America for most of my life so it's tough to just pick one country! I'm so appreciative of all three cultures."
Playing for the US national side and her future ambitions . . .
"I have done all of my youth stuff with the US but when I went to England that year they gave me an opportunity to go to a senior camp but I was conflicted on the rules and I don't know what that would mean with my other nationalities. So now it's quite clear, if you get a senior cap for a nation then that's the allegiance that you've chosen. I haven't yet capped with any nationality so right now the opportunity for all three is still there."
What excites her most about the current health of the women's game . . .
"It's exciting because I think the exposure is increasing and not just here in America, I think all over the world. The product has always been good, I think women's football has always been brilliant, there's just been a lack of exposure. Now that more people are starting to pay attention and we are shedding a light on it I am really excited, that's all you can ask for.
Her advice to young athletes looking to role models like herself . . .
"I would just say to seek failure. When you are younger you have to so much time and resources to try so many different things and learn so much. Try not to stay comfortable but live outside of your comfort zone, more times that not you are going to fail but the good thing about that is it will be such a huge learning experience. In my career at times when I have lost and haven't done what I wanted to do, my response to that has helped me grow and become the player that I am today."
How important her faith in Jesus is to her life . . .
"Yeah to me it's huge, because there is going to come a time where people, jobs, things fail you. There is going to come a time when you are disappointed but your faith and your relationship with Jesus is forever. God will never fail you and in football there are so many ups and downs, there are so many adversities that you face and for me, just having my faith has really helped me in those times. It's helped me to become the person that I want to be, it's easy to be a good person when everything is going your way, when you are scoring game-winners, but in the times when you aren't playing that's when your character shows. Through Christ, I've learned that he loves everyone and there's no denying that."
How that faith impacts her Soccer on the field . . .
"For me it's what gives me calm and ease because I've reached the point now where this is my job. It gives me that calm to just play freely and to glorify Him, I have passion for this and that was God-given. I really do think that I was put on this earth to try to play this game and impact as many people as I can."