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Thank you, Eniola Aluko

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The former Chelsea forward announced her retirement from professional football yesterday

Soccer - Women’s Super League - Chelsea Ladies v Sunderland Ladies - Wheatsheaf Park Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Former Chelsea FC Women star player and — still — all-time leading goalscorer, Eniola Aluko, has announced her retirement from professional football. Though Aluko left Chelsea for Juventus in the summer of 2018, to blaze a trail for women’s football in Italy, she spent 2012-2018 leading the Blues’ front line.

Aluko’s assist to Ji So-yun in the 2015 Women’s FA Cup final gave Chelsea Women their first major trophy. Aluko was also named Chelsea’s 2014-15 Player of the Year, and she was also selected to the 2015 PFA Team of the Year.

One thing I am personally grateful for has been Eniola’s willingness to speak out about issues of racism in football. The rise of social media and the growing footprint of women’s football makes speaking up about social issues a less career-threatening thing. Still, Aluko didn’t back down, and instead spoke with clarity.

One of my favorite quotes of hers came in a 2017 interview with The Guardian, in which Aluko crystallized the double jeopardy of making your dehumanization known.

“Race, for some reason, is this taboo subject that everyone avoids talking about. The minute you are brave enough to talk about race, you are in a difficult situation. That in itself is discrimination.”

–Eniola Aluko; source: The Guardian

Unfortunately for athletes who speak out, these types of stories become intertwined with their career and, even more unfortunate, makes them polarizing figures.

Aluko’s skills as a striker deserve celebration, particularly within the corridors of Cobham (and St George’s Park). Though she now moves on to experience the rest of her post-football career, what she did for Chelsea (and England) will always remain a part of our history, and a part of our hearts.

Thank you, Eniola Aluko.