Eni Aluko on ‘rising above’ backlash against women’s football

Eni Aluko says negative comments are being ‘shut down’ more and more (Picture: REX/Getty/PA)

The insults of ‘insecure’ trolls will eventually be silenced as women’s football grows more popular.

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 simply ‘rise above it’.

The broadcaster has watched the sport develop from both the pitch and the pundits box.

But with increased visibility comes a higher chance of online abuse for those involved.

Eni, who made 102 appearances for the Lionesses, was the first woman to appear as a pundit on Match of the Day in 2014.

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

Speaking ahead of the Women’s Football Awards, the former Chelsea footballer described online trolls as the ‘bottom of the barrel’.

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

Eni Aluko also spend time as the first Sporting Director for Angel City FC (Picture: Getty Images)
The former player, now pundit, played as a forward with the Lionesses (Picture: AP)

‘I think we’ve got to get to a point where we just rise above these things and shut down the opportunity for these people to spread hatred and their misogyny. But, now, it’s not something that I spend a lot of my time not looking at or paying attention to.

‘That’s been a journey for me.

‘The Lionesses winning the Euros has been a big help, people are calling out those who make those kind of comments.

‘They [the online trolls] are becoming more of a minority as time goes on and respect for the women’s game grows.’

Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses squad are gearing up for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, with Ireland Women’s Team also making their way down under.

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

But elsewhere, there are fights to make the game more equal.

In Canada, players are in the middle of a labour dispute with its federation, Canada Soccer, following reported funding cuts and pay equity issues.

And in France, head coach Corinne Diacre has been sacked after players quit the squad in protest for better conditions.

Eni said: ‘It’s important to recognise the women’s game needs to value the players and put them first.

‘We’ve seen so much infighting between federations and players on 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 (Picture: Getty Images)
Lauren James has been described as England’s next breakout star (Picture: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

‘Canada are defending Olympic champions, so to have their budgets cuts doesn’t make any sense.

‘I think women in sport have always been the easy target, we have to make sure there is equity and there is fairness.’

As the game grows, Eni also highlighted the need for improvements to be made ‘from a female specific lens.’

There have been calls for greater research into the impact periods, ACL injuries and even kit design have on players.

Eni added: ‘Where the game is commercialised quite quickly, a lot of the science around the game is still very much science that’s been directed around men, so there’s this assumption the same science can be applied.

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

‘The reality is we are completely different types of human beings with different organs, different body types and different hormones.’

In May, the former player is set to host the Women’s Football Awards, supported by Sportsmail, to celebrate those who have contributed to the game’s growth.

She’ll be joined by Sky Sports presenter Jamie Carragher on stage, with leading personalities from the women’s game, male football allies and celebrities all expected to attend.

It will pay tribute to grassroots greatness as well as national and international superstars of the women’s game.

Eni said: ‘This is the first awards that I know of that really set out to celebrate all levels of the game – from grassroots all the way up.

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

‘I think that’s really important. There’s so many people that have been committed to that growth that don’t necessarily always get recognised. Without them, the game wouldn’t get to where it is.

‘When I was asked to host the awards that was one of the things that really stuck out to me, the intention to spotlight those types of people as well as the players and managers.

‘I think that’s really an admiral part of the awards and I’m delighted to be a part of it.’

Award categories will include Player of the Year, International Football Player of the Year, Club of the Year, Grassroots Initiative of the Year, Lifetime Achievement as well as a series of accolades for people and brands working behind the scenes to expand the reach of women’s football.

The event has been backed by England internationals Beth Mead, Jess Carter, Nikita Parris and Toni Duggan.

Eni’s co-host Jamie Carragher said: ‘In recent years the growth of the women’s game has been phenomenal.

‘The Lionesses’ European Championships triumph saw fans around the world fall in love with women’s football.

‘It is now time the people involved got the recognition they deserve and that is why the Women’s Football Awards are so important.’

The 2023 Women’s Football awards, supported by SHEIN, will take place on Thursday 25 May.

The public can nominate now at www.womensfootballawards.com


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

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

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