Tokyo 2020 (F) – Great Britain
- Ifeoma Dieke was part of Britain’s first team at the Olympics
- Scotland center-back and Kim Little were the only two non-Englanders in the squad
- Dieke talks about 2012 and the Scottish women who could shine in Tokyo
Ifeoma Dieke was born in the United States, earned a scholarship to attend Florida International University, played pro in Chicago and Boston, and is now a coach in Miami. Yet in 2004, summoned to join the world’s most successful women’s national team, Dieke turned down the call from the United States.
To understand the inexplicable, it suffices to listen to Dieke speak with his strong Scottish accent. Despite her ties to the United States and Nigerian parents, Dieke explains that she is Scottish to her fingertips. This attachment to a country where she grew up at the age of three weighed heavily in her decision to turn her back on the successes she would have obtained if she had accepted her American invitation.
“I have not the slightest regret”, assures Dieke to FIFA.com. “I still remember the preparations before the internship with the American team. I realized the privilege it represented and the opportunities that presented itself to me, but I was not particularly impatient. I wondered a lot why and I I realized that even though I was born in the United States, I didn’t feel like an American. I didn’t feel anything special inside of me, unlike every game with Scotland. People took me for she was crazy at the time and it took two or three days for me to take the courage to tell my coach that I wasn’t going to the camp. But, frankly, I never regretted that decision. C it is a decision that I made with my heart, for the right reasons. “
Selected over 120 times with Scotland, she became the first black woman to wear the Scottish armband and helped her team advance to a major tournament for the first time. Another achievement, in 2012: only two non-English players are called up to the very first women’s Olympic team in Great Britain. Dieke is one of them and, although her tournament ended early, with a cruciate ligament injury in Game 2, she has fond memories of it.
“I remember feeling sorry for myself because these kinds of injuries can end a career,” she says. “But one day I was watching the Paralympic Games on TV when I was stuck in bed. I saw athletes with no arms or legs in action. It inspired me and it helped me put things into perspective. In the end, this injury lengthened my career because I learned to train differently and to condition my body and I played until I was 37 years old. “
When Hope Powell called Dieke to announce her selection, she saw a dream come true. “I loved watching the Olympics, although I preferred to focus on athletics. So knowing that I was going to participate in this event, it was absolutely great. Even today, I still have a hard time. to say that I was ‘Olympian’ because the athletes I think of play in a different stratosphere, “says the one who helped Britain’s first women’s team to play and win their first match at the Millennium Stadium in front of 30,000 people . “Total euphoria! Would do it again right away, even though I was seriously injured during the tournament.”
No words, but deeds
In addition to the injury, Dieke came under criticism from English newspapers, as she and her fellow Scottishwoman Kim Little refused to sing ‘God Save the Queen’, the national anthem of England and Great Britain, which includes aggressive words towards the Scots. “We talked about it with Kim and there was no way,” said the former center-back. “But no player or staff member made us sing the anthem. It was slightly intimidating being the only non-England players in the squad even though I was lucky enough to have Kelly Smith, Alex Scott and Karen Carney as club teammates. The adjustment was mostly done on the pitch. We had to adapt to the way England played. But the fact that Kim and I started shows that we had adapted well. “
The Team GB did not concede any goal in the two matches in which Dieke played. For his part, Little has played all the meetings in London 2012 and, at 30, could be in Hege Riise’s team for Tokyo 2020. It remains to be seen how many Scottish women will be part of the Olympic adventure in Japan this time. .
For Dieke, besides Little, which she still considers essential, two players have all the qualities to integrate the selection of Great Britain. “Erin Cuthbert will be at the top level, neck and neck with the best players, for at least the next ten years. She is young, but has a lot of experience, a great attitude and can move into many roles without a problem,” believes the former Scottish international. “Caroline Weir should also be called. I really enjoyed watching her improve because she has always had talent. Few players are above her technically, and she has improved in terms of physical condition.” , Judge Dieke, who also gives chances to Jennifer Beattie and Rachel Corsie.
At his best, Dieke would undoubtedly have been on the trip. But this time, the Olympian will support the team from her home in Miami as the second British team in history will try to win a first medal on Japanese soil.