AN aspiring Young Matilda has just taken a big step towards her dream of representing Australia by the time she hits 16.
South Fremantle resident Sophia Brooks (13), who featured in the Herald six months ago urging young girls to give soccer a try, has just won a spot in an elite Football West program designed to unearth the next generation of Aussie stars.
“I got into the National Training Centre; it’s basically where they train girls for things like the Matildas and the Young Matildas,” Sophia said.
Her place as a “full-timer” will have come at someone else’s expense and Sophia says there’s no chance of cruising through now she’s in; every year participants compete for their place and those who don’t make the cut end up back at club level.
If commitment counts, she’s halfway there: “Before I came here I had done an hour of training,” Sophia says at her 9am photo shoot.
“Every morning I do 2,300 touches.”
That means running through a series of different skills, such as circling the ball around her legs or practising moves to fake an opponent.
Having a soccer-made dad who created a mini soccer pitch in the backyard also helps, so her before-school routine often involves slamming a few shots into the back of the net. Then there’s training four or five times a week with her local club Fremantle City Football Club, school five-a-side team the Flamboyant Tacos and the NTC.
Sophia wasn’t always so passionate about soccer and it took repeated urging from her school chums – who recognised her talent – to finally get her on the pitch.
“My brother started playing and I went down, but someone vomited at training so I hated soccer – really hated it – for years,” Sophia says.
But with a local role model to drive her on; “I look up to Sam Kerr, she is so good and so funny,” Sophia now has a big incentive to realise her goal.
“I want to play for the Matildas by 16 because that’s when the World Cup is in Australia,” she says.
by STEVE GRANT