Nigeria defender Ashleigh Plumptre has stated Super Falcons’ 2023 Women’s World Cup qualification is yet to sink in for her.
After reaching the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) semi-final – when they were eliminated by Morocco on post-match penalties – the Super Falcons grabbed a ticket to participate in the global tournament.
Plumptre represents Nigeria at international level through her father’s heritage and not her country of birth, which is England.
“It still hasn’t really sunk in about the World Cup,” Plumptre told BBC Sport Africa.
“I never thought I would play in a World Cup, whether it was with England or Nigeria. I never thought it would be a thing.
“I remember watching the England Under-20s at the World Cup when I was about that age. I wasn’t thinking that would be me one day, and here we are. Crazy!”
She explains how, together with her father, they started the process of switching allegiance after success with Leicester in the English Women’s Super League.
“I always have to do something for a purpose,” the 24-year-old added.
“I’m somebody who is a bit different in football because I don’t just play to play it. I have to do it for a reason.
“When we won the league with Leicester, I sat down with my dad and said ‘This is something I want to do’. It was actually my dad, who is my agent, who got in contact with Randy [Waldrum, head coach of the Super Falcons].”
And once she joined the Super Falcons in camp for the first time, Plumptre admits; “I was super, super nervous for the first camp because I had no idea what to expect,” she continued.
“There’s not been anyone on the team that’s like me, in terms of being from England and looking how I do.
“I didn’t know how some of the team would take me, but everybody was really, really welcoming. Especially after my initiation. Obviously, dancing and singing are a big part of the culture, and I had to throw myself into it even though I was dreadful.”
She also revealed elements of the Super Falcons squad that she has come to love.
“When we enter into a stadium, we are always singing, dancing and that really helps with relieving the pressure a little bit,” she concluded as she pointed out the differences between playing in England and Nigeria.
“I don’t feel like at Leicester they would be open to that.
“In England, people are generally a bit more like, ‘Oh I’m not good, oh it’s new.’ I can try, but I can’t imagine how many people will join in.”