At The End Of The Day Melissa Barbieri keeps go­ing

MELISSA BARBIERI only switched from bas­ket­ball at 14. Four World Cups prove she made the right choice...

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS -

I knew I’d made it as a player when I de­buted for my coun­try in a 1-0 win against Canada and I’d only been a goal­keeper for about a year. I was hap­pi­est when I made the team for my fourth World Cup fol­low­ing the birth of my daugh­ter Holly. My hero grow­ing up was Michael Jor­dan. I was a bas­ket­baller – I only took up foot­ball when I was 14 – and I loved his work ethic and the fact that he didn’t make it straight away. He orig­i­nally wasn’t se­lected for his high school bas­ket­ball team and it was through ad­ver­sity that he be­came the player that he needed to be and prove peo­ple wrong. The fun­ni­est thing a coach ever told me was at half­time, when I’d made about five of the best saves of my ca­reer, but that I was to blame for us be­ing 3-0 down! Play­ing in the men’s league opened my eyes to the fact that the boys don’t get much coach­ing grow­ing up. I found it very in­ter­est­ing that I was hav­ing to teach a lot of them how to play. It was the Pre­mier League, so I kind of just as­sumed that they would know all the stuff that I was try­ing to get them to do on the pitch, but a lot of them were just like, ‘I have no idea what you just said!’ The day foot­ball broke my heart was when I was told that be­cause I had a baby that I would no longer be able to play foot­ball. My proud­est mo­ment was lift­ing the 2010 Asian Cup tro­phy as cap­tain. Play­ing at four World Cups was amaz­ing and each brought some­thing dif­fer­ent. The first one was just ‘wow’ – the oc­ca­sion and be­ing in Amer­ica with the amount of press around was a real eye-opener as to how big women’s foot­ball had be­come around the world. The sec­ond one I was the num­ber one goal­keeper so a lot more pres­sure, but we did re­ally well and that opened the Aus­tralian pub­lic’s eyes to the women’s na­tional team and started the ball rolling for the W-League. The third I was cap­tain and over­whelmed be­cause I wasn’t just do­ing my job any more, I had to look af­ter the team. The fourth came full cir­cle – not be­ing the num­ber one goal­keeper but end­ing up play­ing and be­ing a men­tor for the girls. If I could change one thing about the game, it would be the in­equal­ity at clubs be­tween teams. We should all be classed as foot­ballers and if one thing is done for one team it should be done for an­other team. Whether they’re male or fe­male, or whether they’re get­ting 1,000 peo­ple at the game or 20,000, we should be treated the same. I’m not talk­ing about pay, I just mean in terms of fa­cil­i­ties and train­ing grounds. If it wasn’t for foot­ball I wouldn’t have the amaz­ing ar­ray of friends I have to­day. Three words that sum me up would be loud, emo­tional and pas­sion­ate. The one thing I couldn’t live with­out is my Bose head­phones! If I had one wish it would be to have played at an Olympic Games.

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