The FA Women’s Super League (WSL) season kicks off in March with teams such as Arsenal Ladies, London Bees and Chelsea Ladies competing for honours. One up-and-coming footballer aiming to take the Super League by storm is Millwall Lioness player Rinsola Babajide (pictured below).
Brixton Blog caught up with the highly rated centre-forward ahead of her club’s opening game against Oxford United. Here Babajide shares her reflections on her fledgling career and her recent call-up to England’s Under-19 squad.
2015 was an exciting year for women’s football with more than a million viewers watching England’s Lionesses in action at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Their heroic run, which ended with an agonising own-goal exit at the semi-final stage, led to a surge in support for players who rarely get the plaudits they deserve.
Last year was also a memorable one for a Brixton bred striker who hopes to leave her own mark on the women’s game. Aged only 17, Rinsola Babajide has been touted as “one to watch” by coaches at Afewee, a local football training centre that nurtured Liverpool fullback Nathaniel Clyne.
Babajide, who trained with Afewee before joining Crystal Palace Ladies Development Team at the age of 13, signed for Millwall Lionesses in January last year. Her pace and prowess earned her a scholarship with the South London side whose alumni includes former England women’s team coach Hope Powell.
“Millwall is a real family orientated club and I love playing for them”, says Babajide. “The atmosphere is great when we’re playing at the Den. While the men’s team gets a much bigger crowd at their games, I’m starting to see more and more fans turning up to our matches. We are up against Oxford United in our first game of the new season. I’m pretty confident we will win that game.”
Babajide got off to a flying start for her new club last season scoring 11 goals for the Lionesses in in the Women’s Super League. This year she hopes to double her goal tally and help the Lionesses win promotion to the League’s top division.
Her mentor Steadman Scott, founder of Afewee, who Babajide describes as a “big inspiration”, has high hopes for her future. Scott and his fellow coaches believe the striker has what it takes to make it at the highest levels of the women’s game.
“Rinsola has technical skills similar to those talented Japanese players who reached the finals of the women’s World Cup last year”, says Scott.
“She reminds me of Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez with her movement, coordination and the way she picks up the ball and beats her opponents with her pace.
“We watched Rinsola in five-a-side and worked with her on cardio and strength training. I have never seen a female striker like her. She’s a fantastic role model for our young people. It would be great to see her break into the England’s senior squad in the future.”
Babajide’s talents as a finisher caught the attention of England coaches who recently gave her first taste of international football with a call-up to England’s Under-19 camp. The young striker will be a part of a squad taking part in the La Manga tournament in March with games against Denmark, the Netherlands and the USA.
The Millwall Lioness, who dreams of emulating Rachel Yankey, England’s most capped player, hopes her international call-up will be the first of many.
“Getting called up to England was absolutely amazing and overwhelming”, says Babajide. “I played in a match against Norway for England under-19 in January and was pleased to be part of the game.
“My aim is to keep training hard and break into England women’s senior team within the next five years. Rachel Yankey, who is England’s most capped player, is one of my inspirations. I remember playing against Arsenal Ladies when she was in the team and she was excellent in attack and defensively. She’s a top footballer and I know I can make it at that level if I keep going and doing what I am doing.”
The FA Women’s Super League season starts on Wednesday 23 March.