Kyah Simon drops in on Zoom call to encourage Indigenous footballers

Westfield Matildas striker Kyah Simon surprised a young group of Indigenous players when she joined their Zoom call to discuss her career and answer some questions from the young footballers.

In celebration of NAIDOC week, FFA teed up a special Zoom call for a lucky few Indigenous players which had a surprise guest with Simon joining the call midway through, much to the shock of all the players.

The young Indigenous footballers got the chance to fire off some questions to Simon who is currently based in the Netherlands with Dutch giants PSV.

Gens of Aussies - MAT - Thin Banner.


Simon is one of three Aboriginal footballers currently playing for the Westfield Matildas with cousin Gema Simon and goalkeeper Lydia Williams also featuring at the highest level of the women’s game in Australia.

 

The Zoom call was a reward and recognition of Indigenous footballers by their Member Federations for their passion, hard work and commitment to the game.  Attending from the Northern Territory, Queensland, NSW, Northern NSW and Victoria, the footballers ranged from the age of 7 years old to 22 with 3 - 18 seasons in the game.  

Name (Age)

Member Federation

Number of seasons

Matthew Flanagan

Football NSW

10 seasons 

Ellie Brown (22)

Northern NSW

18 seasons 

Lexi Owen (7)

Football Victoria

3 seasons 

Lara (12)

Football Victoria

6 seasons

Ruby Van Den Corput (9)

Football Victoria

5 seasons 

Keyla Brown (15)

Football NSW

10 seasons

Neve Tingey (14)

Football Victoria

4 seasons 

Fenella (13)

Football Victoria

5 seasons

Rachel Henderson (20)

Football NT

 

Kane McAdam

Football NT

 

Sienna Turner (14)

Football QLD

3 seasons

Zara Williams

Northern NSW

6 seasons

Upon joining the Zoom call, she was quick to thank the footballers for their support and had some valuable advice for the next generation of Indigenous superstars.

“I hear you guys have been doing great work within your community space and at a grassroots level so I wanted to say a massive thank you for your passion and commitment to football,” Simon said.

“I appreciate it from me at a Matildas level and I’m sure everyone down to the bottom at the grassroots level does as well.

I think it’s so important to have strong Indigenous leaders within football at a community space and I would really encourage you guys to keep doing what you’re doing either as players or down the track in the future as coaches or administrators.”

READ: NAIDOC and Indigenous Football Week: Celebrating the contribution of indigenous peoples to football

MORE: Celebrating the Westfield Matildas Mob

Simon assured the young footballers that they play an important role in across indigenous communities and urged them to stay involved with the world game as they get older.

“I think there are so many people that would look up to you, that you wouldn’t even know about,” she said.

“You’re strong role models for so many people, I strongly encourage you to stay in the game.”

With role models clearly on the minds of these footballers, it was no surprise that the first question was to find out who the Westfield Matilda admired in her formative years.

“Immediately my family, my older sister, my mum, nan. They were the strong females that I looked up to growing up,” she revealed.

“In a sporting sense, Cathy Freeman was my role model. My childhood hero, she’s the one that really inspired me to follow my sporting dream.


"Witnessing her be a strong indigenous leader and really setting an example for the community was something that really resonated with me.”

Simon’s journey to the top was of particular interest to the young footballers with many in the group keen to understand the type of sacrifices that they need to make if they are to make the move abroad.

“The first time I played overseas I was 20. I left at a fairly young age. In the lead up to that, from the age of 16, I was travelling with the national team so I almost got a taste of what it was like to be away from family for weeks at a time,” Simon told the Zoom participants.

“When I had my first break overseas, in America, it was hard and I was homesick. I was crying, the first night I got there I was just missing home.

“I still get homesick at this age and I’m 29. So, I think you almost get used to it and it’s kind of the sacrifice we need to make as professional footballers.”

Kyah Simon POTW
Simon (c)

It was at a certain age that she had her heart set on carving out a career as a professional player.

“It was at the age of eight, I really enjoy the game. I preferred it over athletics and swimming. rugby league was a bit harder to pursue because of the physical part of the game.”

Injuries have been an unwanted recurring theme of her career which has seen her miss out on a host of defining career opportunities however on a more positive note, it has placed her in good stead to pass down her knowledge about keeping a positive mindset to the next generation.

“Every time I had an injury, as disappointing as it is to suffer that injury, I gave myself a couple of days to sulk about it and be sad and disappointed,” she said.

“After a few days, I guess I just looked at the silver lining and it sounds cliché but just looking at where I want to be after this rehab. Facing the reality that it won’t be easy but having that motivation to get back to where I was and even better and stronger or whatever it may be.


“Keeping my goals in sight really kept me motivated and determined to get through that rehab and never give up.”

Her mentality to football is undoubtedly an asset but it remains to be seen whether she will embark on a coaching career when she hangs up her boots.

“I have thought about it, I have done a little bit of coaching with my Kyah Simon football clinics which I run when I’m in the country,” she told one of the young footballers.

“I really do enjoy that aspect of seeing improvement from players and helping them get better on a day-to-day basis.

“That part really draws me to coaching, so it’s definitely on the cards. I haven’t fully made a decision.

“In some capacity, whether it be a mentoring role or a coaching role still involved in the game in some way, I definitely would love to do that, I’m just not sure what role that looks like.”

One of the final questions of the Q&A saw Simon quizzed on how more indigenous people could be swayed to the round ball opposed to other sporting codes.

“It’s a battle, I played rugby league when I was younger. I look back on that now and I think to myself, why was it rugby league that I played? It was because my brother and my dad played and it was in our blood,” Simon said.

It was my childhood friends who said to come down and play soccer. If that never happened, I don’t think I would ever have played it because I didn’t know anyone immediately that played the game.”

The 29-year-old believes that it’s important to have ‘indigenous leaders at a grassroots level’ in the game so that more Indigenous kids will gravitate towards the sport opposed to the likes of rugby league and AFL.

To round off the chat, Simon was asked to give her most memorable moment in her career but with so many milestones already achieved, it was hard to narrow it down to just one.

“Thinking back to my debut game when I’m 16, you can never really forget that. The time that you really achieved your dream and my dream was to play for Australia and doing that at a senior level,” she revealed.

“Achieving that at 16 was a moment that I’ll never forget.

Going to my first World Cup in 2011 when I was 18 and my first Olympic Games in Rio 2016 as well.

“Doing the full circle to when Cathy (Freeman) inspired me at the 2000 Olympics and then to be fast forwarding it to then be playing at my own Olympics was a pretty surreal moment.

Also being the first Indigenous player, male or female, to score at a World Cup in 2011 is up there with those as well.”