EIGHT FOR POMPEY DOUBLED INI’S TALLY
INI UMOTONG netted eight goals in 90 minutes earlier this month, but the Portsmouth striker is used to raising a few eyebrows.
For a 21-year-old, she has already packed a fair amount into her career, including two seasons in the US and a World Cup campaign in Canada earlier this year.
Back on these shores, she is in her second year of an economics degree at Southampton and giving Women’s Premier League defences the runaround every Sunday.
In a season where she has found the net eight times in 11 games, she matched that tally inside 90 minutes a fortnight ago as Portsmouth beat AFC Stoneham 18-0 in the Hampshire Challenge Cup.
“A couple of chances were saved but I managed to put the majority of them away,” shrugged Umotong.
That was the latest highlight in what has been a momentous year for the young forward, which began with the World Cup.
Umotong earned her maiden call-up to the Nigeria squad only in February, when she had to skip the first two weeks of camp to keep up with her studies.
But, by the time the competition rolled around in June, she was named in the finals squad and took her place on the plane to Canada.
While the Super Eagles picked up a solitary point in the group stage and Umotong didn’t manage to get on the pitch, she looks back on the adventure with great pride.
“It was amazing. It was such a busy time with university and it all happened so fast for me,” she said.
“I still couldn’t believe I was there, but I definitely made the most of the experience and learned a lot.
“I was a little bit disappointed not to play, but I was still so grateful for the opportunity and encouraged to make the next World Cup squad.
“As soon as I came back, I had to take my exams.There wasn’t much of a break – it was one extreme to the next.
“I’m in my second year at university and I struggle juggling everything, but so far, so good. Last year was the hardest, travelling to the World Cup, but I still got a first.”
Umotong’s football journey began with Birmingham City, aged ten, before a short stint with Aston Villa in her teens and a trip across the Atlantic.
Two seasons with Wright State University offered a glimpse into her goal-scoring talent. Portsmouth were quick to capitalise on her return to England in 2014, when university took her to the South Coast.
Now the goal is simple – take Portsmouth to the Women’s Super League.
“We’ve had our rough patch in the season and that’s now behind us,” said Umotong, who scored twice as they beat Tottenham last weekend and moved into fifth place in the Premier League Southern Division.
“The mentality of the team changed a little bit.We realised how good we are and how much we want to get into that Super League.
“I will do everything in my power to make sure we are there next season.”