FIFAWWC: How does Nigeria’s Ashleigh Plumptre get ‘Game Ready’?

Ashleigh (third from left) with her Nigeria teammates pose for a group photo before the start of the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women’s World Cup Group B football match between Australia and Nigeria at Brisbane Stadium in Brisbane on July 27, 2023. (One Football / Photo by Patrick Hamilton / AFP)

No longer a surprise after well-earned 0-0 draw (note that “fighting spirit”) against the Olympic Champions Canada and then their superb victory over the co-hosts Australia (that’ll be the “amazing talent”), Nigeria’s Super Falcons are on course to progress to the knockout stages. Due to travel and prep, our ‘Game Ready’ interview with the ace Ashleigh Plumptre just missed our World Cup preview issue (#SK80).

So, ahead of their Group B clash with Republic of Ireland in Brisbane, here’s how Ashleigh gets ready for big games on the big stage…

SK: What should fans from the UK and outside of Africa expect and look for from your team?

AP: We are a team with a fighting spirit. It’s one of the things I love most about the team I’d say. Going into the tournament, we are probably seen as underdogs but we are excited by that as we have some amazing talent that can challenge those teams we play against.SK: What do fans shout/chant to cheer the team on? 

AP: Haha, well I couldn’t pinpoint just one thing that we hear on the pitch. However, what I can say is that the fans are always so loud and make it a great occasion for everyone. Along with their dancing and instruments, it makes for a great occasion. 

Ashleigh Plumptre (2 Nigeria) wins the header vs the Matildas (James Whitehead / SPP)

SK: Do you have a routine of what food and liquids you eat and drink before a match and when you have it?

AP: We usually eat thee hours before kick off but I don’t have any specific food or drinks I have before games. I often have the same electrolytes and same energy gels before the game and at half time though.

SK: What do you like to do before a match? Any rituals or regular habits?

AP: Hmm, I always rub my thumbs over my siblings names on my shinpads before I put them in my socks. Also, as soon as we go out to warm up, I have a tendency of running to touch both sidelines before starting the warm up too.

SK: Is the routine different when you are with Nigeria and in what ways?

AP: The main thing that sticks out to me that’s different than when I’m playing at club is that we always sing and clap off the bus into the stadium. I always enjoy this part because I think it helps everyone settle their pre match nerves and brings us all together.

SK: How will you prepare yourself mentally and control any nerves/excitement? (Will you use imagery, clips, music? If so what?)

AP: I try to be present. I allow myself to feel all the emotions that come up and just sit in them really. I try not to avoid any. This has helped me a lot in the past year or two when I’ve been in more pressuring situations. I believe that different emotions crop up for a reason so I just try and be aware of them all. I also listen to music before games but the genre I listen to depends on how I feel at the time. Sometimes it’ll be upbeat but honestly, other times it could be classical haha!

SK: There are always the jokers of a changing room – who are the players that stand out within the Nigeria squad – what is the atmosphere like before games?

AP: I’d say Chiamaka Nnadozie and Uchenna Kanu as a pairing are very funny! The atmosphere before games starts off full of energy when we go from the bus to the changing room. Then, as everyone prepares for the game, it’s a bit quieter but people will still be dancing around the changing room as they get ready with music playing.

Ashleigh was talking to Catherine Etoe
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