Former Oak Mountain star Toni Payne makes Women’s World Cup debut for Nigeria

Published 4:57 pm Monday, July 24, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

MELBOURNE, Australia – Toni Payne added another impressive accomplishment to her soccer career when she made her FIFA Women’s World Cup debut for Nigeria on Friday, July 21 in Melbourne, Australia.

The Oak Mountain alum played all 90 minutes of the match in central midfield for the Nigeria women’s national team.

Nigeria drew their World Cup opener against Canada, 0-0, and will play host nation Australia on Thursday, July 27 and against Ireland on Monday, July 31. Both matches are set for 5 a.m. central time kickoffs.

Payne was a top player for Oak Mountain during her time with the Eagles. She won the Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year for girls soccer in 2013, which places her among four Oak Mountain players to earn the honor, including Bailee Hartnett, Julia Pack and 2023 winner Kierson McDonald.

In 2013, Payne scored 47 goals and 35 assists and also capped off her incredible individual season with an appearance in the 6A state title game for the Eagles. She finished with 141 goals across her Oak Mountain career.

Payne then played for four seasons at Duke, scoring 23 goals and 21 assists for the Blue Devils. She was the sixth player at the time to record at least 20 goals and 20 assists during her career while starting in 86 of her 90 matches at Duke.

Payne went on to play professionally for Ajax in the Netherlands after college and won the Dutch league twice in her time there. She now plays for Sevilla in Spain’s La Liga Feminine, where she has 24 goals in five seasons and also helped her club win the Spanish cup in 2023.

Payne played for the U.S. through her time with the Under-23 national team, and while she was with the U.S., she won the CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championship for her birth country.

She made her one-time national team change to Nigeria, and has made 15 appearances since debuting for Nigeria against the USWNT in 2021, all of which were starts.

She played with her younger sister Nicole on the Nigeria women’s national team for the first time against the USWNT in 2022. Nicole signed for Paris Saint-Germain in France on Thursday, July 20, the day before Toni’s World Cup debut.