Eni Aluko has alleged England women’s national team manager Mark Sampson told her to make sure her Nigerian relatives did not bring the Ebola virus to a game at Wembley.
Striker Aluko last year made a series of allegations to the Football Association in a complaint about the behaviour of Sampson, who was subsequently cleared of racial discrimination, bullying and harassment following an independent inquiry commissioned by the governing body.
It was reported last week that Aluko received a five-figure sum in an agreement to avoid disruption to England’s recent Women’s Euro 2017 preparations.
The FA stressed this “mutual resolution” was not to prevent disclosure and that Aluko, who remains centrally contracted, was free to speak publicly about the matter.
On Monday the 30-year-old made further claims when she spoke publicly about the matter for the first time, giving a broadcast interview to the BBC as well as an in-depth discussion to the Guardian.
“In 2014 we had a big game against Germany. It was at Wembley and we had a big list of friends and family who would be coming to the game. I found myself next to Mark Sampson next to the board,” Aluko told the BBC.
“He asked me, ‘Who’s coming to watch the game for you?’. I said, ‘I’ve got family flying in from Nigeria’. And he said, ‘make sure they don’t come over with Ebola.”’
A visibly upset Aluko continued: “I laughed because I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say.
“Now I’ve been part of many dressing rooms. I’m used to industrial language, used to sometimes a bit of banter, a bit of a joke — but that was about my family coming to a game, and at the time, Ebola was a sensitive thing.
“He [Sampson] made that comment, and I have evidence of telling another player that it happened at the time.
“This evidence has been submitted to the Football Association. They chose to ignore it.”
The FA maintained, when contacted by Press Association Sport on Monday evening, that all of Aluko’s grievances were taken very seriously.
Asked if she believed it was a racist comment, Aluko replied: “Yes, I believe it was. I believe it was an unfavourable comment made to me that made me feel completely shocked and intimidated, that was said to me because I’m of African descent.
“I don’t know anybody else in the team who has been asked to make sure their family do not come over with Ebola.”
Aluko said she was speaking out now because there was “a lot of half-truths out in the public.”
She shared links to both interviews with her Twitter followers on Monday evening, and wrote: “I have kept my counsel but after my honesty I hope this difficult case will now be clear after your reading. I’d like to move on.”
Having been exonerated of any wrongdoing, Sampson last week acknowledged a need to improve his communication skills when he publicly addressed the situation for the first time.
Following “continued media interest” in the matter, the FA on Thursday published a detailed summary of an independent review compiled by independent barrister Katharine Newton, who accepted credible “non-discriminatory explanations” for Sampson’s conduct after investigating each of the allegations.
This detailed that the inquiry, in which the FA is understood to be disappointed Aluko opted not to take part, looked into eight specific allegations by the England striker as well as an ‘umbrella’ allegation of “bullying, belittling and discriminatory conduct.”
The report, however, concluded none of the allegations were substantiated.
Aluko won 102 caps and scored 33 goals for England before falling out of favour last year. The striker, who was born in Nigeria and moved to England with her family as a young child, believes the evidence she gave at the confidential FA review cost her the opportunity to continue an international career.
In her interview with the Guardian, Aluko recalled a meeting with Sampson at Chelsea’s training ground when she was told about being dropped by England because of “unlioness behaviour’.’
Aluko added: “I had been assured it was a confidential report and that my name would be anonymised so I could speak freely. I don’t think it [being dropped] is a coincidence. I believe it was retaliation.
“I had played for England for 11 years and, within a week or so of speaking to the FA to participate in the culture review, I had been dropped from the squad for the first time in my career.