Player Spotlight: Funmi Fadoju

Written by Sam Akpan

‘I try to just take it one day at a time’. It’s an impressively humble response from one of the Vitality Netball Superleague’s rising stars when I ask about her approach to her career. Having had the privilege to interview Pulse’s Funmi Fadoju, we talk for about 20 minutes – about her ascent within netball, her key experiences, her inspirations, and challenges on the way up.

It would be the U17 Netball Europe tournament which, for Fadoju, signified a shift in her netball career. While her talent had been long on display before that, she explains how her first international tournament really put her on the map. “After that, I got so many messages from people saying well done and congratulations”. While this may have been her first exposure to mass acclaim, it certainly would not be her last – and the ascent has continued domestically where praise continues to grow for her performances at London Pulse.

As we chat about the new experiences – including pictures with supporters with her replica dress along with the younger generation asking for advice with their own netball pursuits – Fadoju reflects on this change. “It made me change, forced me to change and I was able to do more than I thought I could”. With her star continuing to grow both on the domestic and international front – being named to the Roses Futures programme for 2021-22 and now the Vitality Roses for 22-23 (announced after this interview took place), she still ensures that wherever possible, she can offer worthwhile helpful support to the future netballers who look up to and watch her.

For Fadoju, it is nothing more than paying forward the strong support system that has helped her progress to this level. She recognises the role that her mother had in supporting her journey from early. “It was quite far to go to for training sessions, and quite expensive too, but she paid for all my clubs and my travel and did so much hard work to help me get to this stage”. She talks highly of many others who have also aided her journey, including her coaches at both schools and clubs who gave her extra sessions that helped fine-tune her game in the earlier stages. Their commitment to helping Fadoju’s potential is something she does not forget, which gives her an extra drive to play to her highest potential every time she’s on the court.

Within Pulse, she speaks highly of coach Sam Bird and team-mate Halimat Adio – who she even describes as “her netball mum” – an indictment of the closeness the two have, and a testament to her receptibility to continue learning from senior players as her career continues to mature.

Fadoju has grown into one of the league’s best defenders, and she laughs as she explains how she had first gone for attack at a younger age before switching. Winning the VNSL Young Player of the Season in 2021, being both top five in the league for intercepts and turnovers – you would be forgiven for potentially thinking this could add pressure to deliver on these incredible feats.

But for Funmi and the Pulse, 2022 has presented a massive jump, for an organisation sitting currently in 3rd place – their best position since their inception. Despite injury dampening the parade at times, Fadoju’s scintillating defensive skills have remained firmly on display, with her 71 deflections leading the league currently even with the games she’s missed. With the Pulse’s eyes on clinching their first ever qualification to the playoffs, there is no doubt Fadoju will continue to play a key role in doing so.

There have certainly been challenges on this progression, and Fadoju doesn’t shy away from them. She explains how a difficult matchup against Loughborough to start the 2022 season, in a game that felt far from her best impacted her. “I felt like, I was so bad, but after the next game [versus Bath]..I had to change my mindset and just say I’ll give it all I have.. and I guess you could say it’s going well!’

“You know what makes Funmi so good?” Adio explained to me, “the humility, a lot of people get cocky and complacent. She doesn’t overthink things, it’s just Funmi doing Funmi things”.

‘Funmi Things’ is probably the best way to describe the incredible career path we’ve seen from the Pulse defender, and while the achievements and accolades are extremely impressive, it is the holistic perspective Fadoju has sustained throughout her career thus far which makes this progression even more incredible.