To kick off the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, we spoke to former Olympian and English football legend Eniola Aluko, who was hired this Spring as Angel City Football Club’s first-ever Sporting Director. Eniola will play an integral role in the continued development of Angel City FC, focusing on setting the course for the club’s culture, gameplay philosophy, and principles ahead of the team taking the field in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in 2022—with Birdies as the team’s founding sleeve sponsor! As if her schedule wasn’t busy enough, Eniola is also a qualified lawyer in the UK and a football commentator! Read on to hear her inspiring story, her advice to future female leaders, and of course, how Birdies help her feel bold, bright, and confident.
1. What is your definition of bold and how do you incorporate this into your day-to-day?
My definition of being bold is to step outside of my comfort zone and always try to seek opportunities or conversations that make me grow and make me learn or make me understand different perspectives. It's really easy to stay within our comfort zones, and I think it's bold to step outside of them. I try and incorporate that into my day-to-day life—sometimes speaking to people that I may have nothing in common with or taking on an opportunity that makes me a little bit uncomfortable or maybe traveling somewhere that I've never been before. That’s boldness in everyday life to me.
2. What’s a bold move you’ve made in your life?
A bold move I've made in my life... I'll give you two. The first one was when I was playing, and I decided to move to Italy to play for Juventus. At the time, I was a little bit scared. I'd never played in Europe before. I'd always played in either England or the US. I was going into a country where I didn't speak the language. I was at the end of my career, so I was pretty comfortable in my life at home, but I decided to make the bold move to move to Juventus to push myself to grow and experience a different culture. So that is one move I'm really proud of. Another one is a very recent one, and it was the decision to join Angel City as a sporting director. It felt big and it felt bold because the opportunity was so unmissable. The people involved have been people that I've admired from a very young age—heroes and heroines of mine like Serena Williams, Billie Jean King, Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm, and Julie Foudy. You know, I’ve watched these amazing women for such a long time. So it felt massive, it felt bigger than me, and I felt very humbled to be chosen as Angel City’s sporting director. I cannot wait to continue building this team, so that come kick-off next year, we’re all there and excited and ready to see the team succeed.
3. Who has been your support system, and what does having a support system mean to you?
I’ve been so fortunate to have an incredible support system around me. My mom is my hero. My mom always encouraged me to go for it—to be bold, be brave, be different—so I really appreciate her for that. My family, we are go-getters. We like to achieve, we like to go for it, so that always encourages me too. It's also important to have tough love and have people to tell you, “You went wrong there,” or “You should have done that better,” and do it from a place of love. Friends that have become family—it's really important to have those people around you who have known you from a very young age. Particularly when you get into the public sphere, it's really important to have people who know you for who you are, not what you represent in the public. So I always think it's very important to have all those people around me. General mentors in the industry and in the game who have really been there and done it—I grab advice from them and I pick their brains. That support system has been very important for me too.
4. What are your goals for boldly leading ACFC as its first sporting director?
My goals for boldly leading Angel City will be to create a diverse, inclusive, fun-to-watch, exciting, and unpredictable team. There are a lot of elements to that, but I think, firstly, it’s important to really connect with the community, to have a team that's reflective of the community. That means having players from all over the world, players who are from LA, players who really resonate to the badge. It’s really important, and I think people connect with that on a much deeper level than just sport. That’s what I want to create. I’m going to be bold in doing that and be ambitious in doing that. And I think we can achieve it with such an incredible organization.
5. What advice would you give future generations of women to live boldly and with purpose?
My advice for future generations of women to live boldly and with purpose would be to follow your passion. Find what your passion point is and let that lead you, because often that is linked to your purpose. I’ve loved football since the day I was born, and 34 years later, I'm working in football. I feel very purposeful and I feel like I can be bold within my passion point. So I would advise you to always ask, “Does this feed my soul? Is this making me happy?” Because when you answer those questions, you can then go for it, you can then be bold, you can then feel a sense of purpose every day you wake up. I would also say to find your inner validation. For so many of us, as women, we seek validation externally and we’re not very good at giving ourselves internal validation. It's that inner voice telling yourself “No, I've done this before. I'm good enough, I’m worthy of this role, I’m worthy of this opportunity, I'm worthy of this relationship.” Whatever it may be, find that inner voice, train that inner voice to speak to yourself, to validate yourself. And then you will soar.
BONUS: How do Birdies make you feel bright, bold, and confident?
I love the boldness of Birdies shoes. They are so colorful, so comfortable, and they make you feel confident that you can step out in your own authenticity and really be confident and bold.
Photo Credits: Karl Bridgeman, Getty Images
Eniola is part of our Bold Women series, featuring and celebrating women who embody what it means to be bold inside and out. In this series, they share their stories of success and how Birdies help them soar.