Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
- Ifeoma Dieke starred for Great Britain’s girls in inaugural Olympic look
- Scottish centre-half was one in every of simply two non-English gamers within the squad
- Dieke discusses the 2012 expertise and which Scots would possibly star in Tokyo
She was born within the US, earned a scholarship at Florida International University, performed professionally in Chicago and Boston, and now coaches in Miami. But when the decision got here in 2004 to hitch up with the world’s most profitable girls’s nationwide crew, Ifeoma Dieke did the unthinkable. She turned down the USWNT.
Explaining the seemingly inexplicable begins together with her first few phrases, uttered in a thick and unmistakable Scottish accent. Dieke goes on to clarify that, for all these American hyperlinks – to not point out her Nigerian parentage – she feels “everything about her” is Scottish. That sense of belonging, to a rustic by which she grew up from the age of three, simply outweighed the standing and success that may have likely have include answering the USWNT’s name.
“I’ve no regrets about that. None at all,” Dieke instructed FIFA.com. “I can nonetheless keep in mind that construct-as much as that US camp after being referred to as up. Although I knew what an enormous privilege it was – and all of the alternatives it introduced – I wasn’t in any respect excited. I saved asking myself why that was and finally I realised it was as a result of, though I used to be born in America, I simply didn’t really feel American.
“It just didn’t feel right; it didn’t tug at my heart-strings the way playing for Scotland always has. People thought I was mad at the time, and it took me a couple of days just to work up the courage to tell my coach that I wouldn’t be going. But I’ve honestly never regretted it for a second. It was a decision I made with my heart, for the right reasons, and I’m so proud of the international career I had.”
Having received over 120 caps, turn into the primary black lady to captain Scotland and helped the crew qualify for its first main event, that delight is absolutely justified. But regardless of these achievements, Dieke is probably greatest remembered for one more worldwide feat.
That got here in 2012, when she was one in every of simply two non-English gamers chosen within the first-ever Great Britain girls’s Olympic squad. And whereas the event ended prematurely and painfully, with a ruptured ACL in Team GB’s second match, ‘no regrets’ is as soon as once more her mantra.
“I remember feeling a bit sorry for myself at first because you know those injuries can end your career,” she stated. “But after I was caught in mattress recovering, I used to be watching the Paralympics on TV, seeing folks with no arms and legs competing, and it actually impressed me and put issues in perspective. In the tip, I truly assume that damage extended my profession as a result of I realized a brand new technique to prepare and situation my physique, and having at all times thought I’d retire at 32, I ended up enjoying on till 37.
“I nonetheless keep in mind getting the decision from Hope Powell telling me that I’d been chosen. It was an actual ‘wow’ second for me as a result of I completely beloved watching the Olympics, though it was all about observe and discipline for me. To consider myself turning into a part of that simply blew my thoughts. Even now, I battle to consider myself as having been ‘an Olympian’ as a result of, to me, the athletes I take note of are simply in a distinct stratosphere.
“The build-up to it, knowing we were the first GB women’s team to compete, was so cool. Then you play the first game at the Millennium Stadium in front of 30,000 people, and win. It was just a blur. Real euphoria. Even though I picked up such a bad injury during the tournament, I’d do it all again.”
This declaration is all of the extra placing as Dieke’s Olympic ordeals didn’t start and finish with ruptured ligaments. She and fellow Scot Kim Little additionally confronted livid entrance-web page headlines for declining to sing ‘God Save the Queen’, the nationwide anthem of each England and Great Britain.
“Kim and I were both in total agreement on not singing it,” the previous centre-half stated of an anthem that features a verse referencing the “crushing” of “rebellious Scots”. “We’d talked about it and, for us, there was simply no method. The humorous factor was that, within the first recreation, they performed the anthem on till the second verse – and not one of the English gamers knew it! (laughs)
“There was some stick about that too, them not understanding the phrases, and I keep in mind somebody bringing spherical sheets of paper with the lyrics that night time at dinner. They gave them to Kim and I too, however once more there was solely actually banter about it – no-one within the squad or the workers pressured us to sing.
“Being the only non-English players in the squad had been a bit daunting, although I was lucky that I’d been team-mates with Kelly Smith, Alex Scott and Karen Carney. And the others were really good too. The biggest adjustment was on the field – adapting to, essentially, how England played. But I think the fact that Kim and I both started the matches speaks for the fact that we slotted in pretty well, and hopefully enhanced the team.”
Team GB didn’t concede in both of Dieke’s appearances, whereas Little – an ever-current at London 2012 – is now 30, match once more and among the many most distinguished non-English contenders for Hege Riise’s 2020 squad. But which different Scots might we see making an affect in Tokyo?
“Erin Cuthbert for sure,” stated Dieke. “For me, she’s going to be up there with the perfect within the recreation for the following decade and extra. She’s nonetheless younger, however with a great deal of expertise, has a superb perspective and can play – and play very well – in a large number of positions.
“Caroline Weir can be there for me too. It’s been nice to see her improvement as a result of she’s at all times had the expertise – there aren’t many higher technically – however her health capability has come on a lot. And Kim will certainly be there once more. The high quality she has is simply big – she’s nonetheless up there with the easiest for my part.
“After that, it will be interesting to see what the coaches are thinking. Would Beatts (Jennifer Beattie) get in, for example, given she’s played in England for a long time and had a good partnership at club level with Steph Houghton? That might give her an edge over Rachel Corsie. It’s all about the balance, on and off the pitch, and I can imagine it won’t be an easy squad to choose.”
Dieke in her prime can be close to-not possible for Riise to disregard. As it’s, this proud Olympian shall be cheering from her Miami residence as Britain’s second group of soccer hopefuls head to Japan on the hunt for medals.