After missing out on the 2019 squad, the 26-year-old is optimistic about returning to the international fold
Ini Umotong has shed light on some of the challenges she has faced during her career to date, and has outlined her hopes to return to the international fold with the Super Falcons.
The forward was not involved in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, nor the 2020 Olympics qualifiers or recent Turkish Women’s Cup, but has rediscovered her goalscoring form at Lewes.
She has scored three times in four league outings so far, and remains confident that she can impress Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum.
“The new coach I’ve spoken to, he reached out to me,” Umotong told Goal, “I know he’s watching and monitoring me, so the better I can do, the better everything else falls into place for everyone.
“I’m just focusing on myself.”
Umotong turned professional with Portsmouth in 2014 and netted 54 goals in 45 outings for Pompey, earning a Nigeria call-up in the process.
With Pompey, she scored 54 goals in 45 outings and received a Nigeria call-up following her exploits, going on to fulfill her dreams of playing for Nigeria in 2015 and subsequently featuring at the Women’s World Cup in Canada.
“They’re unforgettable memories, something that will stick with me,” Umotong continued. “That season at Portsmouth kind of propelled my career in football and just gave me the confidence to thrive through my playing career.
“I’ve gone on to do better things since then but it all came from that spell at Portsmouth, that gave me the confidence to kind of push forward in my career.”
During a later stint at Brighton & Hove Albion, she earned a Nigeria recall for the pre-2019 World Cup camp and finally broke her international duck in a 3-0 win over Romania.
However, she was later overlooked for the final squad, but has still managed to take the positives from the ups and downs of her career, and particularly, her experiences with the Falcons.
“[International football is] a completely different level,” she continued, “I’d say it is a lot more mentally challenging than it is physically challenging. Form, especially as a striker, comes and goes.
“When you’re on form, it’s great, when you’re off form, it’s mentally trying to get back to the form you’re used to,” she added. “That level as well as so much more rotation for the teams makes form even more mentally challenging for the striker.
“There were highs and lows in my performance and form, at that level, but all of those experiences I’ve learned [from]. They’re all learning experiences and made me a better player.”
Having left Brighton in January 2020, the Calabar-born striker went on to enjoy a short spell at Vaxjo in Sweden, where she scored twice to help the Damallsvenskan side to top flight safety.
Upon her return to England this January, she teamed up with ambitious FA Women’s Championship side Lewes on an 18-month deal and expressed her delight at retuning home.
“It’s really nice. It’s nice being home,” Umotong concluded. “I had a great experience in Sweden.
“I loved it, but the opportunity came up in England to study an MBA in Football Industries which I couldn’t pass up.”