A month has passed and Eni Aluko is yet to get the feeling of emptiness that so often trails retirement. The 32-year-old has hardly had an opportunity to let the reality that she is no longer a professional footballer sink in and, really, the game remains omnipresent in her life.
While the former England and Chelsea striker had lined up her new role as Aston Villa Women’s first sporting director before announcing that she was bringing a 17-year playing career to an end, it was always her intention to remain within football.
An awareness of the difficulties faced by other players meant that she had been planning her next steps for the past five years, laying the groundwork to ensure that the transition would not be as difficult as it seems for so many.
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“That’s the dangerous part,” she says. “A lot of people don’t want anything to do with the game once they are done playing but that, emotionally, is probably unrealistic. I’ve played since I was five years old. Everything that’s good in my life has come from football. To completely divorce it is unrealistic.”
Aluko is distancing herself gradually, still kicking a ball when the opportunity arises and getting to as many games as she can outside of work.
On holiday in Ghana last month she found herself joining in with a seven-a-side game on a dusty pitch; on Friday night she surprised a five-a-side team in Shoreditch as part of an adidas promotional event that quickly turned competitive; and six days earlier she rolled up to Borehamwood to watch her former club Chelsea “absolutely batter” Arsenal in the WSL.
Did watching some of her friends in action not make her pine to be involved? “I watched it and didn’t think ‘I wish I was out there,’” she adds. “I watched it and just enjoyed it, it’s just about taking the emotion out of it.”
Wider reflections will…