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Funmi Fadoju leads the league for deflections this season

Funmi Fadoju leads the league for deflections this season

Having played for England U17, U19 and U21 age groups, Funmi Fadoju is one of Britain’s most exciting young defensive prospects.

After making her Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) debut for London Pulse in 2020, she returned for the 2021 season and last week was given the starting VII nod.

Along with VNSL teammates Kira Rothwell and Olivia Tchine, Fadoju has been with London Pulse since the franchise began.

“I’ve never thought about leaving London Pulse because it’s such an amazing team and an amazing family. It’s such a diverse team and I always feel like I fit in so easily. We all have our disagreements and stuff but even then we’re still always communicating with each other and finding ways to just enjoy each other’s company. I feel like I’m at home.”

Fadoju balances her incredible playing career with academia, studying biomedical sciences at university. She draws on her faith and her church family to support her, as well as her teammates.

“My teammates are actually always there for me if I’m down or if I’m not doing well at school… they help me in my actual life outside of netball and it’s so important. It’s nice to have people you can rely on, you can trust and who you can talk to.”

Coach Sam Bird is another person Fadoju credits with supporting her on and off the court.

“The coaches are amazing, they want to know about you not just as a netballer but as a person and I feel that is so important. Sam Bird is always asking me, ‘How are you today? How has your week been?’ It’s just nice to know that she cares and that she wants to help me in any way that she can.”

Fadoju has played for England at U17, U19 and U21 age groups, an experience she describes as an “honour”.

“I never thought I would make it into England – I didn’t even know much about the pathway before and didn’t even know there was an England team. Since I’ve joined England, it’s pushed me so much as a player and I’ve improved in so many ways. I got to travel to Australia and New Zealand and it’s such a good opportunity for me to carry on pushing myself.”

Her incredible intercepts and defensive prowess have made her a role model for young netballers around the UK, something which she finds it hard to wrap her head around.

“I can hardly believe it myself. It’s weird to think that people are actually looking up to me, but because of that that I’m trying so hard to carry on being the best that I can be and pushing myself during gym and training.”

“It’s such an inspiration to have these girls looking up to me, because when I was younger I used to look up to the England team and to all the girls and I think wow, imagine if I can ever make it to where they are now.”

Her number one piece of advice to any players who want to follow in her footsteps is “persistence”.

“Carry on trying with whatever you do and never give up. At some points you have to be self-motivated, to be able to motivate and encourage yourself to do better. Even if you run into any barriers in your life or your netball career, you just have to keep on going and never give up.

“At some points if you feel that you’ve kind of hit a stagnant point, just keep pushing through it. Do everything you can do in training, give your full effort and you will make it.”

The 2021 VNSL season feels like a perfect opportunity to drive the sport to even greater heights, a challenge which Fadoju is excited about.

“I just feel like we have an opportunity to elevate netball from where it is right now if we keep on pushing, keep on spreading the word about netball and making sure more people know about it.

“Now all our matches are being recorded and on Sky TV and Sky’s YouTube channel and that is amazing. It’s so important to show women and girls that they also can make it to where we are now and helps to break the boundaries for what they think they can achieve – showing them that they can achieve so much more.”

Reflecting on International Women’s Day, Fadoju points to her teammates and even opponents in the VNSL who have inspired her to work harder and achieve more.

“The other athletes are my role models. Seeing them working so hard, being so fit, going to the gym, going to training, just seeing them doing everything they are doing is what motivates me to try so hard.”

Even beyond the power and strength of the women on the court, Fadoju believes there are plenty more women behind the scenes working to grow the sport.

“It’s so important to have women who are powerful both off court and on court because the ones off court are helping us to get more TV screen time or helping us to get equal pay, to make netball an actual full-time career or to increase the amount of people participating in netball. It’s so important for us – it’s pushing us to become a better sport.”

International Women’s Day takes place on 8 March 2021 with the campaign theme of #ChooseToChallenge. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.

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