Iniabasi Umotong Saw Lewes as the ‘Right Fit’ Upon Her Return to English Football

Iniabasi Umotong

Iniabasi Umotong saw Lewes as the ‘right fit’ on her return to English football and is making a big impact both on and off the pitch for the East Sussex club.

Iniabasi Umotong Says Lewes Are the ‘Right Fit’ on Her Return to English Football

Iniabasi Umotong Joined Lewes in January

Umotong joined the Rooks in January and is combining her attacking responsibilities in Simon Parker’s team with a role within the business operations of the club, working closely alongside general manager, Maggie Murphy.

It has been a whirlwind past 12 months for the 26-year-old, whose place on an MBA Football Industries course at the University of Liverpool curtailed her spell out in Sweden with Vaxjo.

After receiving a full Women in Football scholarship to undertake the course, Umotong’s Scandinavian adventure came to an abrupt end and she was soon back in England looking for a new club.

Umotong on an ‘Exciting, Intense and Quite Scary’ Past 12 Months

Reflecting on the last year, she said: “It’s been exciting, intense and quite scary at times. I had an opportunity to play in the top flight in Sweden and it all came about at the last minute.

“I loved the experience and was meant to be out there this season, but I saw that Women in Football were doing a full scholarship for an MBA programme, so I applied and got the full scholarship.

“It was unexpected and I hadn’t factored that into my plans at all. I had to revaluate things and change my plans.

“I needed to be based back in England for the MBA, and Vaxjo were very understanding and supportive in terms of cancelling my contract and allowing me to come back and start my course.

“I then had to find a club to play for back here, because it was so unexpected. I had a look at a few clubs, but Lewes seemed the ideal choice. Not only was it local, but I loved everything it stood for and it seemed to be the right fit for me.”

Reflecting on Her Swedish Stint

The Nigeria international reflected in more detail about her time in Sweden, and explained how a tip-off from a former national team coach and some advice from an old Swedish teammate at Brighton & Hove Albion was enough to convince her to make the journey north.

“One of the old Nigerian team assistant coaches, Jorgen Pettersson, saw that I wasn’t at Brighton anymore and asked if I had a team yet. I said that I was still weighing up my options. He was from Vaxjo and had ties with the club.

“He told me that they needed a striker like myself, so I went over there, like what I saw, and joined the team.

“It was a really relaxed way of living over there. It’s a beautiful country and the town I stayed in was surrounded by lakes and forests. It was a slow-paced style of living and the whole experience was awesome.

“I also spoke to Amanda [Nilden] before I moved there, as she is one of my best friends and knew she was going to be playing in Sweden again after leaving Brighton.

“I asked her about the city and the team, as well as her mum, and they helped to sell the idea to me. I had a couple of friends playing in the league as well, so it was less daunting than it could have been if I went to another country.

“I played against Amanda twice too, which was weird! We lost the first game, but won the second against her.

“The standard is probably the equivalent to mid-table teams in the Women’s Super League. It’s much more tactical and because a lot of teams play 3-5-2, I found a lot of space out wide. Anyone could beat anyone in that league, so it was certainly very competitive.”

Seamlessly Adapting Back to English Football

But after being unable to defer her entry onto the course for another year, Umotong was back in Sussex, playing her football at The Dripping Pan – approximately just five miles away from Brighton’s Amex Stadium.

At the time of writing, Umotong has scored four goals in her last three games and said that adjusting to life in England’s second-tier was relatively straightforward.

She then spoke in more detail at the work being undertaken to strengthen the club’s infrastructure to make a push for promotion to the Women’s Super League.

“Football is the same sport regardless of where you play. I knew the club well anyway due to its close proximity to Brighton and I used to go and watch Lewes play when I had the chance.

“Away from the pitch, my role is quite broad and Maggie’s experience is vast. I’m mainly learning from her, and she’s so knowledgeable.

“I’m heavily involved in the operations side of things, and that has given me an entry-level role in the industry. Because Lewes is a smaller club, I am able to gain experience in so many different areas of the operations of a football club. I’ve had a part to play in league applications, fan and sponsor engagement and planning and sourcing potential future sponsors.

“It’s also incredible working with someone like Maggie, as I feel I’m on the right side of football and helping to make the game more equal.

“I now want to help them get promoted to the Women’s Super League. They’re making all the right steps to get there, and it’s being done properly. I wouldn’t have come to Lewes if I didn’t think that was achievable.”


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