Eniola Aluko disappointed and surprised by players not supporting her stance


England need collective voice, Eniola Aluko tells BBC Sport

Eniola Aluko is “disappointed and surprised” England players have not supported her stance after former national boss Mark Sampson was found to have used racially discriminatory remarks.

After three inquiries, Sampson was found to have used discriminatory language to two players – Aluko and Drew Spence

The Football Association has since apologised for its handling of the case, adding there was “much to learn from this episode”.

England striker Aluko, 30, has won 102 caps and lost her place in the team after making allegations of bullying in a 2016 FA cultural review, which were unproven.

She says she has had no communication from her international team-mates, except for those she plays with at Chelsea.

And she believes England players may “benefit” from improvements to the Football Association’s grievance process resulting from the case.

Aluko has previously criticised the England players for running over to celebrate a goal with Sampson during their World Cup qualifier against Russia, which proved to be the 35-year-old’s last game in charge.

Celebration was a statement – Nikita Parris

She believes they need to adopt the policy of other international teams, who have fought equality issues as a “collective voice”.

And, despite feeling “proud the truth has been corroborated”, she is keen to draw a line under a “stormy” episode and is open to helping the FA to improve its culture and grievance process.

In her first interview since contributing to the Digital, Cultural, Media and Sport inquiry into FA governance at Westminster last month, Aluko told BBC Sport:

  • Players might have reacted differently if homophobic comments were made.
  • England players need to learn the meaning of real “togetherness” from their international peers.
  • They should elaborate on suggestions she is not a team player.
  • She is sorry for some of her tweets directed at England players when they celebrated with Sampson.
  • The “time has come” for Sampson to show humility – but she does not need an apology from him.
  • Playing for England is “not a priority” right now.

‘Would there have been a different response if homophobic statements were made?’

England players have largely been silent in public since the FA apologised to Aluko.

She told BBC Sport: “Would there have been a different response if homophobic statements were made to players? I think there would be.

“Some of this is just a lack of appreciation of what racism is, and what bullying is. A lot of this is, ‘it hasn’t happened to me, I can’t relate to that, so I’m not going to comment’. That, to me, can’t be a team.

“I’ve got to be able to put myself in your shoes and say, ‘even though I can’t understand what it may feel like, I’m going to try and understand and I’m going to support you regardless’. That is a team.

“So a lot of the stuff moving forward needs to be perhaps diversity training, collective conversations, difficult conversations. A lot has to happen, but we can look at other examples around the world and say we can do much better.”

‘Is England’s togetherness just a hashtag?’

Aluko’s case, which first came to light when details of her grievance and settlement were leaked to a newspaper in August, has asked many questions of the FA, and chairman Greg Clarke admitted the organisation had “lost the trust of the public”.

It has come at a time when many women’s teams are pushing for equality – European Championship runners-up Denmark went on strike in order to get a pay rise, while Norway’s players are now paid the same as their male counterparts.

Aluko, who has been supported by fellow England players Anita Asante and Lianne Sanderson, says she has been “inspired” by those teams, and believes the Lionesses need to learn “true togetherness”.

She said: “I’ve had a lot of support from other countries: Norway, Sweden, France, particularly the United States girls. In their case they have Megan Rapinoe taking a knee in protest at the treatment of black people in America, while others sing the national anthem.

“That was discussed among the team, and while some players didn’t agree with her stance, they still respected it. That’s what we need to learn from. I should not be sat here saying I haven’t had any communication from my team-mates, bar the Chelsea girls.

“We need to look at other examples and ask why this isn’t happening with a team ranked third in the world. Is the togetherness we keep banging on about actually being put into action or is it just a hashtag on Twitter?

“Unless we do that, I don’t think we can achieve what we really want to.”

‘Players need to elaborate if they think I’m disruptive’

In a newspaper interview