It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for Alex Chidiac.
The 19-year-old started in the Westfield Young Matildas AFF Women’s Championship final defeat to Thailand on Friday night.
Then, on Saturday morning came confirmation of the midfielder’s move to Spanish giants Atlético Madrid.
“It’s quite emotional, last night’s final didn’t end the way that we wanted but it’s really exciting to know I’m starting the next chapter in my career,” said Chidiac.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, go and play over in Spain, and for a club like Atlético to be interested is really surreal.”
One of Australia’s best and brightest upcoming footballers, Chidiac debuted in the Westfield W-League as a 15-year-old and for Australia as a 16-year-old.
Despite her success at almost every level of the game, Chidiac began to come disillusioned with football.
Chidiac identified a local club in Adelaide as key to reigniting a passion for the game which she was losing - a move which helped the young midfielder kick on massively in the past twelve months.
“The big change for me, I wasn’t enjoying my football a couple of years ago and I went back to basics,” said Chidiac.
“I joined one of the local clubs back home, Adelaide City, and we won the championship there and I fell back in love with the game.
“I’ve always loved watching football and loved being a part of it, and then to get into a bit of a trance of repetitive, I just wasn’t enjoying it. I knew it was something I loved… people could see I was happy again, that I was enjoying it, that I was smiling.
“To go back to basics really ignited that.”
Toward the end of the 2017-18 Westfield W-League campaign, Chidiac reached out to a player agent and asked to put feelers out for a potential move to a European club with a preference for Spain.
Appearances in the Algarve Cup and Asian Cup for the Westfield Matildas saw Chidiac’s stocks begin to rise, but things moved slowly for the midfielder as the European season hadn’t yet wrapped up.
It’s the culmination of almost six months of waiting, not knowing, and hoping for Chidiac. When she first received news of the move to Madrid, she dismissed it as a dream.
“I think I was in Sydney, and I woke up to a message in the middle of the night, and I saw it and I went back to bed. I thought ‘I’m dreaming, that’s not a thing',” said Chidiac.
“I woke up in the morning and was on the way to a gym session and actually read it through, it was all in Spanish so I’m not sure if it’s real, or spam, or if someone’s playing a joke on me. My agent confirmed it was all real.
“I didn’t make a certain decision until I was here with the Young Matildas in Indonesia. It’s not an easy decision to make, but it’s something that I needed to do.”
It’s a huge move for Chidiac, who will have to relocate more than 17,500km from her home in Sydney to Madrid.
Distance isn’t the only factor however with culture shock a real possibility. Chidiac will have to adapt to siestas, paella, upside-down seasons and the big one: the Spanish language.
“Once I knew there was a possibility I’d be going to Spain, I bought all these books, listening to podcasts, I have a book called ‘Spanish for Dummies’ in my bag right now,” laughed Chidiac.
“I looked through it and set all these goals, but I was so in denial and thought it wasn’t going to happen. At the moment, I know ‘hola’ and we’ll see how we go from there. It should be interesting!
“I think I’ll be okay, obviously the language barrier between players will be very different but football’s football. Everyone speaks football there, so I think that’s going to be okay.”
Pending a visa, Chidiac is set to link up with Atlético Madrid after the Westfield Matildas’ play at the Tournament of Nations.
It’s a chance for the 19-year-old to reflect on just how far she’s come in the past 12 months. This time last July, Chidiac was only just feeling her way into the Australia set-up.
A year on, Chidiac has cemented her place in the squad and heads into this Tournament of Nations a different package entirely. It’s hoped that playing in Spain will continue to see her standing in the game rise.
“Hopefully I’ll be looking at some game time and [can] give more to the team this time around,” said Chidiac.
“I think I’m going to grow a lot by being in Spain, and that will be a massive thing coming back into the Matildas.
“I’ve always felt I’ve been a bit of a step behind coming in because girls overseas have been playing football all year round and I’m playing three months in W-League and having to find spaces with NPL clubs or Young Matildas programs.
“I think playing football all-year round will really give me that boost, and hopefully I’ll be able to get a starting spot sometime down the road.”