Many of the millions watching ITV’s live World Cup coverage might know commentator Eniola Aluko has played more than 100 matches for England Women’s.
Few would suspect she graduated from Brunel Law School with a first.
Once dubbed the 'Wayne Rooney of women’s football,' Eniola, 31, has been one of Britain’s outstanding players since joining Birmingham City Ladies aged 15.
In 2014, she made history as the first female pundit on Match of the Day. And very soon she’ll join regular pundits Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Ian Wright and Lee Dixon on the ITV sofa from Moscow.
“To be going to Russia to work on a men’s World Cup is incredible,” she said.
“It shows a shift in broadcasting. There’s a tendency for some male pundits to rock up and take it for granted. I can’t afford to do that so I have to geek out on all the stats and facts and make sure I am not seen as a token woman.”
Eniola moved to Birmingham from Nigeria with her mum and dad, a former MP, when she was six months old. Besides being useful on the pitch, she is smart. Smart enough to fly through a fast-track two-year law degree with a first in 2008.
Girls should not be forced to choose between a football career and academic studies, she believes, calling on clubs to give girls the same chances as boys.
“My issue is young, talented players not having to compromise their education. The men’s academies have partnerships with colleges or universities, whereas we don’t really have that in women’s football. You don’t want an 18-year-old girl who’s very talented thinking: ‘I want to play for the first team but I’ve got to give up my education to do so.’ That has happened a lot.”
ITV’s coverage kicks off tomorrow night with the opening ceremony at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, followed by the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Though Eniola thinks England is unlikely to win the tournament: “It is too early in the team’s development. It is a very young squad with an inexperienced defensive line. I do not think there is enough firepower upfront either, despite Harry Kane having another strong season.”
Images: itv; Brunel University London
Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268176 Hayley.email@example.com