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Angel City FC appoint Eni Aluko sporting director

The first major soccer hire is complete.

Getty Images for Angel City FC

Angel City FC confirmed reports that recently emerged linking Eniola Aluko to the 2022 NWSL expansion club, announcing on Thursday Aluko has been appointed the club’s first sporting director.

Aluko joins after serving in the same role for Aston Villa FC, in somewhat analogous circumstances, having led their debut season the Women’s Super League in England and helped them fully professionalize in the process.

“Appointing Eniola Aluko, a world-renowned international soccer player with extensive experience in technical positions, is a landmark moment for us,” said Julie Uhrman, Founder and President of Angel City FC in a team statement. “She personifies the values of our club, and shares our passion to challenge the status quo, push boundaries and try new things. We have been a fan of Eni’s for many years now and to be able to see her bring her winning spirit, dedication and experience to ACFC is as real as it gets. This is a huge milestone in our journey, and we could not be more excited to welcome her to the team.”

Prior to moving into a front office position, Aluko enjoyed an extensive and successful playing career. Growing up in the west midlands of England, she came through at Birmingham City, making her first-team debut at age 14, before moving on to Charlton Athletic, and then Chelsea, where she had two stints in her career. Aluko also played in the United States, for Saint Louis, Atlanta Beat and Sky Blue FC from 2009-11. After the collapse of WPS, she moved back to England, playing for Birmingham City again briefly before returning to Chelsea, where she was a fixture. She wrapped up her playing career with a stint at Italian giant Juventus. All told, she won three WSL league titles, two FA women’s cups, one Serie A title and the Coppa Italia.

Aluko was also an England international, racking up over 100 caps in her career, playing in three World Cups and in two Olympic tournaments for Great Britain. Her international career ended abruptly in 2016, and the striker eventually came out publicly to accuse England head coach Mark Sampson and his staff of racism and bullying behavior, subsequently blackballing her for speaking up. Aluko’s accusations led to an investigation of Sampson, which indirectly led to his firing for an unrelated scandal.

In addition to her playing career and stint as Aston Villa sporting director, Aluko has been a pundit on television and is also a lawyer. She’s only 34, so what are you doing with your life?

“This is an incredible opportunity to help write Angel City’s first chapter and to build a team that is people-focused and admired by players and fans all over the world,” said Aluko. “I have no doubt the club will be a trailblazer, not just in the NWSL and women’s soccer, but for sports clubs globally. As a former player, the club’s determination to make an impact both on the field and in the community is something that I fully support, and I can’t wait to get started. I am thrilled to join a fantastic female led ownership group, many of whom I have admired and been inspired by from a young age.”

What will the sporting director post entail? According to the club, “As Sporting Director, Aluko will lead roster management, the club’s recruitment strategy, oversee player and technical staff development, and act as the NWSL liaison in regards to compliance and administration.”

One expects the next step will be to hire a head coach, which I expect will be lined up in a matter of weeks, if it isn’t done already, with the timing of any announcement dependent on whether that coach is under contract elsewhere. When it comes to player announcements, don’t expect anything on that front until around December, since roster moves tend to happen all at once in the offseason.

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