Eni Aluko on the backlash against women’s football

SUN 7 AM: Broadcaster Eni Aluko on the long road of women's football

Eni Aluko says negative comments are increasingly being ‘turned off’ (Image: REX/Getty/PA)

The insults of ‘insecure’ trolls will eventually die down as women’s football rises in popularity.

That’s the belief of former England star Eni Aluko. But until then, she says the best way to deal with online backlash is to just “rise above it.”

The broadcaster has been watching the development of the sport both from the pitch and from the expert bench.

But with increased visibility, the likelihood of online abuse increases for those involved.

Eni, who played 102 games for the Lionesses, became the first woman to appear as a expert Game of the day 2014.

Since then, limiting her social media use has been a difficult balancing act that has taken years to perfect.

Ahead of the Women’s Football Awards ceremony, the former Chelsea footballer described online trolls as “the bottom edge of the barrel”.

Eni told Metro.co.uk: “A lot of these people are deeply insecure, so I think when you realize that it’s important not to give them the energy.

Crystal Palace v Bournemouth AFC - Premier League

Eni Aluko also spent time as the first sporting director for Angel City FC (Image: Getty Images)
The former player-turned-pundit played as a forward for the Lionesses (Image: AP)

“I think we need to get to a point where we just rise above these things and take away the opportunity for these people to spread hate and their misogyny. But now I don’t spend a lot of time not looking at it or paying attention to it.

“It was a journey for me.

“It was a big help that the Lionesses won the Euro, people call those who make comments like that.

‘She [the online trolls] become a minority over time and respect for women’s football grows.’

Sarina Wiegman’s Lioness Squad are preparing for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and the Irish women’s team is also making its way Down Under.

England have not lost a game since Sarina Wiegman took charge (Image: PA)

England have not lost a game since Sarina Wiegman took charge (Image: PA)
The Lionesses were champions in the last Arnold Clark Cup (Image: PA)

But elsewhere there are struggles to make the game more equal.

In Canada, The players are in the midst of a labor dispute with their federation, Canada Soccer, following reported funding cuts and pay equity issues.

And in France, head coach Corinne Diacre was sacked after players left the squad in protest for better conditions.

Eni said: “It is important to recognize that women’s football needs to value the players and put them first.

“We’ve seen so many power struggles between federations and players over things like contracts, money and maternity rights and things that should just be a given in 2023.

A Chelsea fan waves a ‘Let Girls Play’ flag at Selhurst Park on March 5 (Image: Getty Images)
Lauren James has been described as England’s next breakout star (Image: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

“Canada is defending the Olympic champion, so there is no point in cutting its budgets.

“I think women in sport have always been the easy target, we have to make sure there is justice and fairness.”

As the game grows, Eni also stressed the need for improvements to be made “from a female-specific lens.”

There have been calls to research more about the impact periods, ACL injuries and even the jersey design that players have.

Eni added: “Where the game is being commercialized fairly quickly, a lot of the science surrounding the game is still very much science focused on men, so there’s this assumption that the same science can be applied.

The Women’s Football Awards celebrate all levels of the game (Image: alessiarusso99/Instagram)
Categories include Player of the Year and Grassroots Initiative of the Year (Picture: Pedro Soares/SPP/Shutterstock)

“The reality is that we’re completely different types of people with different organs, different body types, and different hormones.”

In May, the former player will host the Women’s Soccer Awardssupported by Sportsmail to celebrate those who have helped grow the game.

She will be joined on stage by Sky Sports presenter Jamie Carragher, with leading women’s football figures, male football fans and celebrities expected to attend.

It will celebrate the greatness of grassroots sport and national and international women’s football superstars.

Eni said: “This is the first award that I know of that really aims to celebrate all levels of the game – from the base to the very top.

Manchester City's Bunny Shaw became the player with the most goals in a single season (Image: Ashley Allen - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Manchester City’s Bunny Shaw became the highest-scoring player in a single season (Image: Ashley Allen – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)
Eni says women’s football “must value the players and put them first” (Image: Dan Weir / MatchDay Images Limited)

“I think that’s really important. There are so many people dedicated to this growth that are not necessarily always acknowledged. Without them, the game wouldn’t get to where it is.

“When I was asked to host the awards, one of the things that really struck me was the intention to put the spotlight on these types of people, as well as the players and managers.

“I think that’s really part of the awards and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Award categories include Player of the Year, International Footballer of the Year, Club of the Year, Grassroots Initiative of the Year, Lifetime Achievement and a range of awards for people and brands working behind the scenes to expand women’s reach Football.

The event was joined by England internationals Beth Mead, Jess Carter, Nikita Parris and Toni Duggan.

Enis co-host Jamie Carragher said: “The growth of women’s football in recent years has been phenomenal.

The Lionesses’ European title made fans all over the world fall in love with women’s football.

“Now is the time for the people involved to get the recognition they deserve and that’s why the Women’s Football Awards are so important.”

The SHEIN-Powered Women’s Soccer Awards 2023 will take place on Thursday, May 25th.

The public can now nominate at www.womensfootballawards.com


READ MORE: What record-breaking viewership in women’s sport in 2022 means for the future

READ MORE: Lionesses star calls for more pubs to show women’s football

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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https://metro.co.uk/2023/03/19/eni-aluko-on-rising-above-backlash-against-womens-football-18462392/ Eni Aluko on the backlash against women's football

Justin Scaccy

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