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Nigeria Call Up Former England Starlet Rinsola Babajide for 2024 Olympics Qualifiers

Former England U23 international Rinsola Babajide says she has been overwhelmed by love and support after being named in Nigeria‘s squad for the 2024 Women’s Olympic Football qualifier against Ethiopia.

Babajide is one 22 players named by the NFF for the two-legged fixture on Oct. 23 and 31, and the former Liverpool star took to instagram to express her appreciation for the call up: “I’m grateful and blessed to have received a call up for the Olympic qualifiers.

“The love I’ve been feeling has been overwhelming. Thank you so much.”

Some of that love came from Fulham and Super Eagles midfielder Alex Iwobi, who wrote “Proud!” in his response.

A speedy winger, Babajide helped England win bronze at the 2018 FIFA Under 20 Women’s World Cup, and her outstanding performances with Liverpool saw her earn a call up to the England Women’s training camp after being voted the Reds 2019/2020 Player of the Season.

But her opportunities were restricted when Liverpool were relegated from the WSL and Babajide, who was born in London, tried to force a move away in 2021 to boost her chances of returning to the Lionesses. She played for the U23 side as recently as April 2022.

She eventually joined Brighton and Hove Albion before moving to Spain where she spent 18 months with Real Betis, and finally joined UD Tenerife this summer. Her arrival will bring additional speed and competition to the Super Falcons forward line.

Ashleigh Plumptre was one of Nigeria’s best players at the Women’s World Cup. She recently signed for Al Ittihad in Saudi Arabia. Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

While this first time call up may hog the headlines, a notable absentee has slid under the radar. Captain Onome Ebi has been left out of the squad, along with fellow UK-born and raised defender Ashleigh Plumptre (who was arguably Nigeria’s best player in the round of 16 nail-biter against England) at the World Cup, and breakout star Deborah Abiodun.

Ebi, 40, was widely expected to announce her retirement after the last FIFA Women’s World Cup, where she became of only five players to have appeared in at least six World Cups. But that announcement did not come, and she was named in the squad to face São Tomé e Principe in the qualifiers for the 2024 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. That fixture was cancelled when the opposition withdrew.

While the NFF announcement was silent on the exclusion of Ebi, the understanding from sources in the federation is that she is being “encouraged” to make her retirement official.

Meanwhile, there is a continued lack of resolution on the team’s coaching situation, which has stagnated since the NFF announced in September that they would open discussions with Randy Waldrum to renew his contract.

Officials are unwilling to say where things stand. It is unclear who will manage the team into the qualifiers as Nigeria seek to reach the Olympic Games again. The Super Falcons qualified for the first three tournaments in 2000, 2004 and 2008, but have failed to make it to the next three.

Source : ESPN