Last week, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) released the list of 26 players to represent Nigeria’s Super Falcons for September matches.
The 11-time Africa champions will partake alongside five other African countries in the Aisha Buhari Invitational Women’s Football Tournament.
Super Falcons coach named a strong 26-woman list for the tournament, but there were some surprising names on the list, including the two daughters of former Super Eagles star Peter Ijeh.
However, the standout name is Leicester City Women’s star Ashleigh Plumptre, who joins a list of players born or raised abroad to represent Nigeria at the international level.
In recent years, players like Alex Iwobi, Ola Aina, Joe Aribo and Semi Ajayi were born or raised in England. Some even represented the Three Lions at youth level before switching allegiance.
But while these players were born to Nigerian parents, Plumptre’s case is different. The 23-year-old was born in Leicester to parents who are actually English but with a father that has Nigerian heritage.
Plumptre’s paternal grandfather is Nigerian, and that made her eligible to play for the Super Falcons. Another reason why Plumptre’s international switch has grabbed more attention is because of her skin colour.
While she’s not the first Biracial player to switch international allegiance to Nigeria, her skin colour sets her apart, and she admitted people always think she’s tanned.
“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.
She’s proud of her Nigerian heritage, though.
Although Plumptre was born in England and has spent all her life in the country, she has always been proud of her Nigerian heritage.
The 23-year-old was capped 30 times at youth level for England, but she has always had the dream to represent Nigeria at international level.
“The idea of me being able to play for Nigeria, with that being an option, I would happily grab that with both hands,” Plumptre told BBC Sport.
While she has little knowledge of the country’s culture, Plumptre is interested in learning, and she hopes she could also inspire other biracial people.
Obviously, there’s a lot of things I can openly say that 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.
“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.
But what’s her career history?
Plumptre started her career with Leicester City at the age of eight, but before going on to make her first-team debut, she had stints with Derby County, Notts County, USC Trojans and LA Galaxy in the United States before returning to join her darling Leicester City.
Plumptre played a crucial role in the Foxes Women’s team that won the FA Women’s Championship and secured to the Women’s Super League.
She was recently rewarded with a two-year contract that keeps her at the club until 2023 and also voted the club’s Players’ Player of the Season.
What’s her role and style?
The 23-year-old plays as a centre-back, and she’s left-footed. Plumptre is comfortable with the ball at her feet and also strong on set pieces.
A rock at the back 💪
— LCFC Women (@LCFC_Women) June 5, 2021
Settling into the Super Falcons team
Even before her call-up, Plumptre has been keeping tabs on Nigerian players. At Leicester, she has two Nigerian players- Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho- that plays for the men’s team, even though she’s yet to meet them.
While at Notts County, Plumptre also heard about Asisat Oshoala, who played for Liverpool and Arsenal in the WSL.
Although she has a little understanding of the culture, Plumptre revealed she’s a fan of the country’s music. But surprisingly, the 23-year-old is more of an old school person, saying the legendary King Sunny Ade is one of her favourite musicians.
The Super Falcons are currently camped in Austria, and it appears Plumptre is enjoying the company of her new teammates.
Plumptre has a beautiful trademark smile, which was also on display in some of the camp pictures she shared on her Instagram stories.