Sally Shipard recently spoke to Matildas Lydia Williams, who is based just 100 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle in Pitea, Sweden.
I recently spoke to Matildas Lydia Williams, who is based just 100 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle in Pitea, Sweden.
Covered in several sentimental tattoo-s, the indigenous goalkeeper will forever remain close to her roots back here in Australia but will not let an opportunity to explore the world through football pass her by.
Lydia leads quite the adventurous lifestyle and thrives in the professional footballing world. Read on and find out what exactly goes through a keepers mind when faced with a penalty. Why she chooses to play in Sweden and what we can expect from the brilliant keeper in the future.
Sally Shipard (SS): This is your second season playing for Pitea, you obviously like it a lot over there, what is it you like the most?
Lydia Williams (LW): I really enjoy the competition over here, Sweden has one of the most competitive and stable leagues in the world for women-s football. It-s very aggressive and I-ve strengthened a great deal as a player. Also in Pitea there exists a small and tight knit community, it reminds me of home (Canberra) a little bit and I-ve fitted right in.
SS: Overall how have you been enjoying the experience, being immersed in another culture, speaking a different language?
LW: I love travelling and learning about other cultures. Where I am living is about 100km south of the arctic circle so it has definitely a lot of history and culture. I have seen reindeer and moose, and also learnt a bit about the native people of Scandinavia called the Sami.
SS: Cool Lyds, that sounds great! Speaking of culture, how is the food? You do enjoy cooking when at home, are you able to find all the ingredients that tickle your fancy in Sweden?
LW: I still love cooking and I do it often in Sweden, they have awesome salmon that are huge! They are cheap also. It is fun using the ingredients here that we don-t have in Australia.
SS: I know you have been away for a while now, as much as you get used to being away do you ever miss home?
LW: I am missing home a little now. We had a summer break and everyone went home to see their family and friends but I wasn-t able to. Skype is helpful, but it isn-t the same. I do miss being home and hearing an Aussie accent.
SS: Aussie accents you-d be able to find close by? There are a few other Aussies in the league. Ash Sykes and Carys Hawkins for example. Have you been able to spend any time with your fellow Australians?
LW: Nic is living down south so we have only caught up when I was down there; she visited me at my hotel. Carys actually lives in a town not too far away but we haven-t been able to catch up outside of the games and season so far.
SS: An advantage in returning to Sweden would be the Euros. How have you enjoyed the chance to catch the games?
LW: I actually got to watch the Sweden v Germany game in Gothenburg. That was such a great atmosphere and a good game to watch, I even got to catch up with Tom (Sermanni), Alicia (Ferguson) and Dani Warby. It was refreshing to hear some Aussie accents again. All the games have been shown on television so I don-t think I missed watching one game.
SS: Brilliant! I am glad you were able to catch up with familiar faces. Now Lyds, what is the most challenging thing for you playing pro in Sweden?
LW: The most challenging thing would be the competitiveness, everyone is out there to win and score goals. The physical nature of the game is very different to other leagues around the world. Unlike some other leagues you can never predict who will win; there have been upsets where the favourites have lost games so you need to always be on your toes.
SS: What is the most satisfying thing for you whilst playing in Sweden?
LW: The quality of the competition. Each team has at least a few outstanding players and they usually make or break the games and get wins. Also with the Swedish league being around for so long it is a very established league.
SS: You joined us in Europe. All up it had been 21 months since you-ve represented Australia. How hungry were you to get an opportunity to play for your country again?
LW: It felt great, it had been so long. I have been itching to get back into it all with the team again. I knew there might be a European tour coming up but I didn-t know if I was an option until I got an email. I was so excited and made sure I was ready to come in and see everyone again and do the best that I could since I missed out on a lot on the camps and previous games.
SS: During our final match against France. You were subbed on at half-time. What was going through your head when you stepped on the pitch?
LW: I thought this is it, the first 15 minutes they-re coming out guns blazing and wanting to win. Then I thought I had nothing to lose and just play my best.
SS: And that you did Ms Williams! You were kept extremely busy during the 45 minutes. How satisfying was it when you saved that penalty? Fill us in, do you just dive and hope or can you tell which way the kicker is going?
LW: It was great saving that penalty! But because it was during the play, I couldn-t celebrate too much like it was a shoot out. So I had a quick ‘Come-on- (Lleyton Hewitt style) and then had to focus again. Before the game I-d watched a video of the French team and the goals they-ve scored previously. Luckily I-d seen footage of a penalty that went to the kickers right, and that is exactly where she put it. But in saying that I could also read her as she ran up.
SS: Wow, incredible insight there (mental note kick left in future penalties against Lyds). Are you excited for the future of our team, all these changes going on around us, how do you think it will help us further develop?
LW: I think our team have always been talented and it's good to have a structure that helps us be disciplined as well as creative. I think that was shown when we played France. So the more we get together the more we will grow together.
SS: So far, what is the highlight of your career?
LW: The highlight for me is the FIFA World Cup in 2011. I played my first game in a packed stadium and we got the win. Then going into the Olympic qualifiers I had a certain level of confidence that really helped my development.
SS: Lets go back to when you first started. Why did you begin chasing leather?
LW: Well I had a lot of energy and I played many sports in Kalgoorlie but football was my favourite. When we moved to Canberra I joined a few teams but the only position left was a goalkeeper, even though at the time I was a midfielder. So a goalkeeper I became.
SS: Who was the biggest influence in your development as a footballer?
LW: I have had a few people who have influenced me. First definitely my Mum and Dad, they were always saying they are proud and supportive of me. In their eyes I never had a bad game whilst I was growing up. Once I started to get more and more recognised I had a few goalie coaches, Marty and Jimmy, who helped me get the skills I needed. Once I was selected for ACTAS, Jonesy (Paul Jones) helped me continue to develop and has been the most integral part of my improvement. Can't forget to mention Tommy (Sermanni), he believed in my talents and gave me confidence to finally get my first cap for my country.
SS: Before you left Canberra you took up studying at UC. How are they going? Are you able to find time in amongst your schedule to keep you degree ticking over?
LW: It was hard to keep it going, but I eventually got the semester done and sat an exam. It is important to me that I have a study option so I have a career choice after football.
SS: What is it that you want to do alongside your football? Or post football?
LW: I loved working at the zoo and I love cooking too. I have always thought about a café or something to do with food. But also continue a zoo career option. When I was younger my Mum, Dad and I would go out to the desert to help the indigenous communities and people. I would like to do that in some way as a dedication to my Dad. Even if it is just providing a friendly face to talk to. I want to help in some way.
SS: What do you hope to achieve with the Matildas?
LW: I would love to win another Asian cup, since that is the closest competition coming up and then obviously a semi-final at the World Cup, one step further than previous years. May as well win it too. Anything is possible and with our current squad I really do believe that!
SS: What do you hope to achieve as an individual?
LW: I want to have a great Westfield W-league season again and continue to develop the way I need to, so I can gain more experience and become the best goalkeeper possible. Then my other goals, our teams goals will happen.
SS: What advice would you give to a young aspiring footballer?
LW: The most important thing is to love the game and love what you-re doing. You always need to work hard to achieve your goals that you need and want in every aspect of your life. But at the end of the day, as long as you love what you are doing, the work hard attitude is totally worth it.