Anita Asante has starred for club and country over the last five seasons in either midfield or defence and is renowned for her pace, aerial ability and fierce tackling. She gained her first international cap in her debut season and went on to be part of the Arsenal Ladies celebrated quadruple winning squad of 2006/7. Earlier this month Anita and Gunners team-mate Lianne Sanderson surprised many by switching to Chelsea who are only beginning to establish themselves amongst the top teams in domestic ladies' football. She spoke exclusively to Londonist shortly after her recent appearance in England's friendly defeat away to World Champions Germany.
How was it facing the World Champions on their own patch?
I was excited and a little nervous about playing the World Champions but once I stepped on the pitch I realised that this is what we all work so hard for - to test ourselves against the best in the world.
What are your ambitions with England over the coming season?
My ambitions are to qualify for Euro 2009 in Finland and hopefully meet and compete with the stronger nations in the final stages of the tournament.
You've recently, along with Lianne Sanderson, made a high profile move to Chelsea from Arsenal where you'd tasted great success. What were the major factors in your decision?
I decided to leave Arsenal, having had a great career at the club, to instil a renewed ambition within myself and compete with what is still a very strong club along with other teams such as Everton and Leeds. I felt it was the right time to challenge myself in a new environment and experience a different type of pressure having come from such a high profile team.
What are realistic goals for Chelsea Ladies this season?
Chelsea Ladies realistically seek to improve on where they finished last season and challenge the top two or three clubs and hopefully reach a cup final whether it be the FA or League Cup. As a whole the club are very positive and are ambitious, but believe they have the right crop of players to potentially achieve these goals.
Has it been easy combining your studies at Brunel University with your football?
It has been tough, but I have received a lot of support from my family, friends, lecturers and staff both at club and country so I feel very fortunate to have been able to continue with both. Both my studies and football are a major part of my life and each has led me to do things that I may not have been able to do without either, so when things get hard I think it will all be worthwhile in the end.
Footballers with degrees are rare in the men's game. Are they more common in Ladies football?
I think you will find there are a lot more ladies playing football with degrees, but that's because we do not have a professional league in England, so its a good thing to have for other career options and it's something to always fall back on.
You've been studying English and Politics. What were your specialist subjects within that?
I studied for a BA in English in Politics and am currently studying for an MRes in Politics. My specialist subjects in English are to do with works of fiction that focus on issues of identity, miscegenation, the centre and periphery and, in Politics, international relations and supranational institutions and globalisation.
Other sportswomen such as Olympic 4x100 metre relay runners Laura Turner and Emma Ania were studying with you at Brunel. Did you pick up any training tips from each other?
To be honest I never really crossed paths with these athletes, probably because of our schedules not coinciding as well as being based within different departments and my training not actually taking place at Brunel but other sporting facilities.
You've had a gradual rise through all the England junior teams. How has that helped you settle into the senior setup?
Having played through all the England Junior Teams has helped me gain a thorough understanding of the tactical strategies employed throughout the England setup. Also, it's allowed me to gain experience of playing the best up and coming talent from across the world that, like myself, either now or may play in their senior teams. When it comes to playing them at the highest level I have some sense of what I am coming up against. Moreover, I know how hard I will continue to have to work to compete at the highest level.
What are your favourite moments at club and country level so far?
I have several favourite moments at Arsenal Ladies FC but if I have to highlight one it would be winning the UEFA cup in 2006/07 season. My favourite moment for England so far has to be qualifying for the World cup and reaching the World Cup quarter finals.
What's next for you outside football?
Outside of football I hope to pursue a career in journalism in print and broadcasting in the field of sports.
Many thanks to Alex Stone of the Football Association for arranging this interview.