Though in many areas of the United States, "soccer,” is considered an “s,” word, Tennessee fans — who might not be otherwise interested — have an extra reason to tune in to the Women’s World Cup this year.
Former UT soccer player, Michelle Alozie, will be playing for Nigeria when the tournament starts July 20th and runs through August 19th. The event will be held in Australia and New Zealand this go-around, as the affair is held just once every four years. The US Women’s National Team is the reigning champion since they won the tournament in 2019.
Alozie was born in California, but her parents are from Imo State, an area in Nigeria that’s the third-smallest in geographical size and one of the most densely-populated areas in the country. Alozie is permitted to play for Nigeria due to a FIFA rule that states “his [or her] biological mother or father was born on the territory of relevant association.”
Alozie’s amateur soccer career in the US was anything but dull, as she spent her first four years of college playing for Yale. According to UTSports.com, in 2015, Alozie led Yale in points and finished second in goals during her freshman season, one that was cut short two games due to injury. She was also named the conference’s Player of the Week twice and made two game-winning kicks. Alozie finished the season and won the team’s Offensive Player of the Year award. Not bad for a freshman, right?
In 2016, she carried the momentum from a stellar first year into her second year, when she finished second on the team in points, goals and assists, with four of each.
Her junior year at Yale was her best yet, as she won the Ivy-League Co-Offensive Player of the Year, was a unanimous first team, All-Ivy League selection, finished with 23 total points (good for second in her conference) and won four matches via game-winning kicks.
But, just as it seemed like her amateur career was really hitting its... stride... she played just two matches her senior year before it was shortened due to a season-ending injury.
After earning her bachelor’s degree from Yale in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and having her eye on one day becoming a cardiologist, Alozie elected to use her graduate transfer season to play for Tennessee.
She didn’t have quite the personal success on the pitch for the Lady Vols as she did for Yale; but she scored four times in 17 appearances, including a goal on senior night against the No. 6-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks.
Alozie has gone on to play professionally since she left Tennessee, spending the 2021, 2022 and 2023 seasons with the Houston Dash.
Here’s her first career professional goal in the National Women’s Soccer League from last season:
She scored two total goals with the Dash in 2022, and then doubled her minutes this season, going from 259 last year to 563 this season while adding another goal to her career total in 2023.
Since 2021, Alozie’s also played for the Nigerian National team around her time with the Dash. So far, she’s only nabbed one goal playing for Nigeria, but this will be her first World Cup, so we’ll be rooting her to add to that total. Alozie calls the World Cup experience a “life-changing thing and a career-changing event.”
FIFA, the Men and Women’s World Cup’s governing body, maybe doesn’t have the most sparkling reputation, but the rule that allows Alozie to play for Nigeria, even though she was born a US citizen, since she has a “direct link,” to Nigeria, i.e., her parents being Nigerian — is definitely a rule FIFA got right. Alozie gets to represent the link to her heritage and play for the Nigerians this summer thanks to the statute, and the video above gives some insight into the pride she takes in it.
So come July 20th, put on your Tennessee gear and keep an eye out for Alozie and her Nigerian National squad. Then cheer when/ if she scores a goal. Though perhaps keep the cheering a bit subdued, because one day, it may be Alozie scolding you for not taking better care of your ticker. If she does, just tell her you’re a Vols’ fan, and I’d bet she’d understand.