Home News Former England Players Share Their Journey of Switching Allegiances in Women’s World Cup 2023

Former England Players Share Their Journey of Switching Allegiances in Women’s World Cup 2023

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Switching allegiances

Numerous talented players who once represented England at the youth level are preparing to make their mark on the global stage this month. However, not all of them will be donning the Lionesses’ jersey. Instead, some have chosen to switch their sporting allegiance and play for the countries of their parents or grandparents. Sport News Center had the opportunity to speak with Rosella Ayane and Becky Spencer from Tottenham, as well as Ashleigh Plumptre from Leicester City, about their bold decisions and the consequences they entail.

Embraced as Part of the Family

Last year, when Morocco secured their maiden Women’s World Cup spot, Rosella Ayane, a forward for Tottenham, found herself in a peculiar situation. Having changed her sporting allegiance from England the previous year, she became the first player from the Women’s Super League to represent the Atlas Lionesses. However, she had yet to fulfill her initiation song. When the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) kicked off, Ayane deferred her performance, urging her new teammates to secure a World Cup ticket with a top-four finish first.

Amid laughter, Ayane shares, “They didn’t forget. The minute we got into the hotel after we’d qualified, they made me stand up on the chair, and I sang my heart out. I chose an Adele song that everyone knew, and they embraced it, joining in. It showed how much they want me to be a part of that family.”

Although Ayane was born in Reading to a Scottish mother and Moroccan father, she was raised in England’s youth system alongside current Lionesses Leah Williamson and Katie Zelem. By 2021, with no senior caps, Ayane made the decision to fulfill her international aspirations with the Atlas Lionesses, considering it both football-wise and mentally fitting for her at that time. Despite not speaking French or Arabic and being unfamiliar with her new teammates and head coach Reynald Pedros, Ayane appreciates the warm reception she has received. She states, “I really respect the way they’ve taken me in. I’m from a completely different culture, speak a completely different language, and it would be quite easy for them to isolate me, but they do the exact opposite.”

Ayane demonstrated her gratitude on the field, letting her football prowess speak for itself. Her decisive winning penalty against Nigeria propelled the Atlas Lionesses to their first Afcon final, and she scored again in the showpiece, although they lost 2-1 to South Africa. In recognition of her sporting achievements, Ayane received the Moroccans of the World award in May. With the World Cup on the horizon, her decision to switch nationalities stands as a personal triumph. However, Ayane views the campaign as something bigger. She believes they are gradually changing the perspective, respect, and perception of women’s football in Morocco. For her, the real achievement lies in inspiring the next generation and transforming the nation’s outlook on women’s football.

Jamaica Accepts Me for Who I Am

Becky Spencer, a Londoner and goalkeeper for Tottenham, also made the switch from England in 2021, which has injected new life into her career. The 32-year-old player, a Champions League winner with Arsenal in 2007, has been a familiar face in the top flight and has amassed over 100 appearances in the Women’s Super League (WSL). Spencer was England’s number one goalkeeper at the 2008 Under-20 Women’s World Cup and played a pivotal role in their triumph at the Under-19 European Championship the following year, alongside notable players such as Lucy Bronze, Laura Coombs, Jordan Nobbs, and Demi Stokes.

Although she received senior call-ups, Spencer remained uncapped, leading her to focus on her club form and media work instead. She shares, “I didn’t think about it, and I wasn’t missing it. I was actually quite exhausted because when you do that from such a young age, you don’t know any different.” However, an approach from Jamaica reignited her interest in international football. After making her debut with a clean sheet against Nigeria in 2021, Spencer felt accepted by the Reggae Girlz “for who I was and the player that I am.”

Since her switch, two head coaches have departed Jamaica, and the players recently criticized their federation for insufficient support leading up to the World Cup. Nevertheless, Spencer remains pragmatic, acknowledging the financial constraints faced by the federation. She states, “There’s not a lot of money in that federation, so with that, you don’t know what to expect. But we’ve got a very good core of players that stick together.” Among them is her friend Drew Spence, a 30-year-old midfielder from Spurs who also switched from England. Together, they contributed to securing Jamaica’s return to the world stage. Spencer hopes that their visibility at the World Cup will inspire future players from Jamaica and bring pride to their nation. She adds, “They love us over there, so we hope we can do them proud.”

A Journey of Self-Understanding

Ashleigh Plumptre, a defender for Leicester City, experienced a profound moment when she made her debut for Nigeria against Ivory Coast in 2022. Overwhelmed by emotions, she burst into tears upon returning to her hotel. Plumptre had been harboring these emotions for a long time, as playing for Nigeria was a significant event for her family.

As a former England youth player, Plumptre represented her birth country with pride, participating in two European Under-17 Championships alongside future stars such as Chloe Kelly and Alessia Russo, who will be part of Euro 2022. However, her perspective began to shift during honest conversations with her younger half-sister about racism, their African heritage, and a culture that neither of them truly knew.

Taking the step forward, Plumptre reached out to the Super Falcons. Initially overwhelmed by her teammates, she even hesitated to speak to Barcelona’s star striker Asisat Oshoala. However, through her performances during a challenging Afcon campaign that saw Nigeria lose their continental crown but secure qualification for the World Cup, Plumptre demonstrated her composure and earned her place alongside her teammates in Australia.

Joining Nigeria was not initially a goal for Plumptre. Nevertheless, the journey of qualifying for the World Cup with her team has provided her with invaluable life experiences and a deeper understanding of her heritage and family’s culture. Moreover, she hopes to become a role model for children of mixed heritage and serve as a sounding board for them. When asked about her sister’s reaction, Plumptre shares, “She said one night off the cuff, ‘I’m proud of you, Ash,’ and that, for me, was enough. I knew then it was the decision I was meant to make.”

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about switching allegiances

Why did these former England players switch their allegiances in the Women’s World Cup 2023?

These players chose to switch their allegiances for various reasons, including the desire to fulfill international ambitions, connect with their cultural heritage, and seek new opportunities. Each player had their own personal motivations and found new teams that embraced them and their unique identities as athletes.

More about switching allegiances

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