On Thursday, Super Falcons coach, Randy Waldrum published a list of 26 players ahead of the Nigerian senior female team’s training camp in Austria, with one name looking different and her image also raising the question, “who is Ashleigh Plumptre?”
Plumptre, 23 plays in the defense for Leicester City in England’s Women Soccer League. She had previously represented England at the youth level 30 times but had also always claimed a soft spot for the Nigerian team.
Plumptre in the past said she would accept to play for the Super Falcons if she got an opportunity, as she’s linked to Nigeria through her paternal grandfather whose Nigerian roots are still unclear. In some interviews she conducted, she showed her knowledge of the Nigerian culture, food and music and her admiration of Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho, her Nigerian colleagues in the Leicester men’s team.
“The idea of me being able to play for Nigeria, I would happily grab that with both hands,” she responded in a BBC Africa in an interview.
“Representing something that really means something to somebody is very important. Obviously, there’s a lot of things I can openly say I don’t know about Nigerian culture but I want to learn because I know that it’s in me, and it’s in my sister and in my dad.
“We can only get it from my granddad, he’s the only thing that we know in terms of Nigeria. I’ve obviously visited Nigerian relatives in America and in England. “Seeing this little journey my sister and I have been on, and the understanding of our family heritage, not just that but watching Nigerian documentaries and learning about the past is incredible.”
“I listen to a lot of music, but my favourite genre is classic 90s R&Bs, the stuff my dad grew up listening to are what I listen to now.”
“But with regards Nigerian songs I like, I will go with veteran and legendary musician King Sunny Ade because I’ve heard some of his records.
“I really enjoy the Nigerian Jollof rice, fish stew but my favourite meal is moi-moi.”
A Fox, A Lioness And Now, A Falcon
Born in Leicester, Plumptre joined the Foxes’ Centre of Excellence at the age of eight and played there for seven years before joining Birmingham City’s Under-17 while she was only 15.
Her career also took her to Derby County, Notts County, the USC Trojans, LA Galaxy OC, before she returned to England where she joined Leicester’s female team who were in the Championship at the time, turning down an opportunity to be a draft pick for the American League.
The Foxes were soon taken up by male team sponsor, King Power, and this propelled their ascent to the Championship as they emerged winners in the Championship and ensured they got promoted to the Women Super League.
Plumptre, who has a British mother, previously represented England at the U-17, U-19 and U-23 levels before electing to represent the Nigerian women’s national team in June.
Setting A Biracial Example
By representing Nigeria, Plumptre believes she will set an example for the acceptance of people with a biracial background. She’s not the only foreign-born player in the fold with Watford’s Mowaninuola Dada, Ini-Abasi Umotong, Toni Payne, BK Hacken sisters Josephine and Evelyn Ijeh, Yewande Balogun, and FC Zurich’s Onyinyechi Zogg all born abroad.
While she will not be the first of players of biracial origin to represent a Nigerian team Super Eagles stars — Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Maduka Okoye and others also strongly biracial – her skin colour is different and that pushed her drive to find her heritage.
“What it will mean for me as somebody who is British born but with Nigerian heritage is huge. People look at me and they think I’m tanned and that I’ve been on holiday, they don’t think that I’m Nigerian,” she told BBC.
Plumptre is also not the first tanned footballer with Nigerian descent, with Aston Villa midfielder, Ross Barkley also believed to have a Nigerian father.
“I don’t think that should be significant in saying whether somebody is Nigerian or not because it’s in your blood, it’s not about what you look like,” Plumptre said.
“My sister, she looks African because she has an Afro and her skin tone is darker than mine, with that obviously, she’s had different experiences in school than I have had.
“I think with football being my platform, I am using that as something that’s bigger than me. As much as I can resonate with my Nigerian heritage.
“I feel like I can hopefully inspire someone like my sister or other kids like her maybe in this country or other countries to look at me and be like you know what? It doesn’t matter what your skin tone looks like.
“If you can resonate with your heritage and it means something to you, it means you can represent something bigger than you, then that’s what it comes down to.
“I think people too often look at the surface of this rather than actually try to find out inside what our drives and passions are, and what means a lot to us.”
See Full List of 26 Players Below;
Goalkeepers: Tochukwu Oluehi; Chiamaka
Nnadozie (Paris FC, France); Patience Okeke (Bayelsa Queens); Yewande
Balogun (California Storm, USA)
Defenders: Glory Ogbonna (Edo Queens); Osinachi Ohale (Madrid CFF,
Spain); Esther Ogbonna (Edo Queens); Chidinma Okeke (Madrid CFF,
Spain); Onyinyechi Zogg (FC Zurich, Switzerland); Nicole Payne (West
Virginia University, USA); Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash Reserves,
USA); Megan Ashleigh (Leicester City, England); Josephine Ijeh (BK
Midfielders: Rita Chikwelu (Madrid CFF, Spain); Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene
(Eskilstuna United, Sweden); Toni Payne (Sevilla FC, Spain);
Mowaninuola Dada (Watford FC, England)
Forwards: Rasheedat Ajibade (Atletico Madrid, Spain); Francisca Ordega
(Levante UD, Spain); Gift Monday (FC Robo Queens); Joy Bokiri (Bayelsa
Queens); Uchenna Kanu (Linkopings FC, Sweden); Ebere Orji (Sundsvall
DFF, Sweden); Ini-Abasi Umotong (Lewes FC, England); Evelyn Ijeh (BK
Hacken, Sweden); Desire Oparanozie (FC Dijon, France)