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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 June, 2005, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Educated Aluko holds Euro dream
By Pete Oliver
BBC Sport

Eniola Aluko
School books had long since been banished by teenage tyros Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen when they started banging in the goals for England.

Not so, though, for England striker Eniola Aluko, who is poised to combine her A-Level exams with trying to fire her country to glory in the Women's European Championship.

Aluko is a key member of Hope Powell's squad, which launches its bid for a first-ever European crown as the host nation with an opening group game against Finland on Sunday.

But as well as her role as a potential match-winner for England, Aluko also has to fit exams in psychology, media studies and English around her match schedule.

"It's just one of those things and I wouldn't want it any other way," Aluko told BBC Sport.

"The logistics of it means I am going to take my exams up here rather than at my normal test centre. That's my path and I've just got to get on with it.

The 18-year-old Charlton Athletic striker missed a recent warm-up game against Norway to concentrate on her revision and admits that combining the two aspects of her life has been demanding.

I think it's important to keep all the doors open so if something fails you can go down another path
Eniola Aluko

She said: "It is difficult to balance football with studying. I am feeling the pressure now. I just want to focus on the game and win so badly, that the academic side is like a chore.

"I used to enjoy studying and learning new things but now it's kind of getting on my nerves.

"I would never downgrade my education, because education is always going to be a foundation for me but football is my passion, my choice and way of life."

While Owen and Rooney will never need to worry about work again, Aluko is also committed to laying the foundations for a possible future career in law.

"I think it's important to keep all the doors open so if something fails you can go down another path," she added.

We are 10 games unbeaten now so we know we can do anything with the team we've got
Eniola Aluko
Aluko goes into the Euros on top of her game, having scored the winning goal in the Women's FA Cup final last month and then coming off the bench to claim her first England goal against the Czech Republic in the squad's final friendly.

"I think it's important that every member of the team performs in order to be an ambassador for the game and encourage other girls to play and strive to play at this level," Aluko said.

"We are in the best position now to put all the critics to one side and show that women's football can be a great festival of football."

England's opening game at the City of Manchester Stadium is expected to attract a crowd of around 30,000 and after months of preparation, Aluko can not wait to get started.

She said: "It's nothing we've ever experienced before but I think everyone is ready and prepared for the task ahead. It's a case of performing on the big stage.

"We have our own expectations. We are 10 games unbeaten now so we know we can do anything with the team we've got."


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