Sam Kerr: ‘Everyone wants to jump on board and be a Matildas fan’

first_img Twitter Sam Kerr: ‘There are no hierarchies, no cliques … we are fit and we are fast’ Share on Twitter Topics Richard Cuthbert (@cuthbert_rich)I am now! See you there! 17, 2017 ‘I can still get better,’ says Sam Kerr after hat-trick and another accolade In the Pepper Stadium crowd, a male fan, Richard Cuthbert, was spotted sporting a Socceroos jersey with Lucas Neill’s name crossed out and replaced in tape with “Kerr”. Cuthbert had also added a ‘0’ to Neill’s No2 to make Kerr’s No20. The image of this glorious gendered role reversal made its way to Kerr via Twitter, where she retweeted it, eventually tracking Cuthbert down to gift him her own jersey at the next game in Newcastle.“I said, ‘I’ve got to find this guy,’ not thinking that anything would come of it, just showing how cool it was,” Kerr tells Guardian Australia at the end of a hugely successful year. “[But] someone got a hold of it and sorted it out. I got to meet him and give him tickets to the game. “He said he couldn’t buy the Matildas jersey with my name on it, that’s why he did it. It was a really cool moment for both of us, I think.” Twitter Pinterest Share on Messenger Kerr is congratulated during last month’s friendly against China in Geelong. Photograph: Joe Castro/AAP Kerr is acutely aware of what an incredible year it has been for the Matildas, both in terms of their achievements on-field, and the unforeseen levels of public attention they have garnered off it.“Once we won the Tournament of Nations, most of us went back to our clubs in Europe and the USA, and Staj [Alen Stajcic] told us, watch ticket numbers go up, and after we beat the USA, they went up a ton [for our club games]. But no one really realised how big the change was until we got back to Australia. I’d never seen so many media requests and fans at our games. Share on Pinterest Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share via Email Despite her clear disappointment at this inequity, she is upbeat and positive about what she describes as a “crazy year to say the least”. This is characteristic light-hearted Kerr, who doesn’t deny having a reputation for being the team clown.“I’m always having a laugh, whether it’s the right time or the wrong time… I’ve been in trouble a few times for having a laugh at the wrong time,” she says. “That’s the kind of team-mate I am. I like to keep things on a lighter note. I play my best football when I’m having fun and that’s what it’s really all about – when the emotion gets the better of me I can fade out of the game.” In a statement that should serve as a forewarning to her opponents, Kerr says she hopes next year will see her take her game “to another level”.“Whether I score less or more next year, as long as it helps the team out, that’s the main thing for me. I want to win the Asian Cup with the Matildas, hopefully win the Tournament of Nations again, and put ourselves in an even better spot to be seeded at France 2019 and qualify from the Asian Cup.” “The frustrating part was that the cameras were there, and throughout the warm-up they were packing up,” she said. “We could complain about it, but I think we just need to be happy for the games we have. They put on more games than they ever have this year. We have 24 games this year which is more than I think even the NWSL [American league] gets, so it’s pretty cool we have the coverage we do for such a short league.”Nonetheless, Kerr hopes that the days of packing up cameras may soon be over. “With the games that aren’t televised doing so well, that might actually make them think, well we can’t take a risk missing a game because things like that happen. Some people have said it was the game of the season so far, and it was crazy to be a part of.” Women’s footballcenter_img If Sam Kerr didn’t already believe she had become a household name this year, there came a moment in September when there could be no denying it. The Matildas had arrived triumphantly back on home shores, having swept aside USA, Brazil and Japan at the inaugural Tournament of Nations. In Penrith, and then Newcastle, they appeared to a heroes’ welcome, with record home crowds waiting to greet their newfound champions. features Facebook “I think when we got back for those Penrith [and Newcastle] games we really felt the difference, and to be honest it hasn’t gone back since. I hope it never does, because it’s awesome to be part of.”Asked if she could pinpoint what had led to the Matildas’ unprecedented run of success, Kerr’s answer is relatively simple. “It has been a long time coming but we’ve just found the right kind of routine that works for us. It’s a bit less stressful in the camp now, and I think that helps everyone, because that’s the Aussie way, that kind of relaxed feel. “When we get a bit too stressed out that’s when we play bad and get a bit too nervous. At the moment we’re just playing with that carefree attitude and self-confidence that’s the perfect mixture.”For Kerr, the Matildas’ charm is quintessentially Australian; they are “fiercely competitive”, she says, but play as the “underdogs”, with an infectious fighting spirit. “We play such a good brand of footy that Australians love to follow and support. The Matildas are household names now and you see not only young girls but young boys wearing Matildas jerseys – everyone wants to jump on board and be a Matildas fan. I think we connect with all different audiences, from young to old, male to female, which is very unusual in sport.”One of the joys of an ever-increasing profile for women’s sport, she says, is that the game is attracting support from even the most unlikely of sources. “I had the cutest old man come up to me yesterday. He said he hates watching men’s football because they dive and scream on the ground and he only watches the Matildas and the W-League, because it’s just so exciting.”The increasing profile of the Matildas has meant a surge in interest in the W-League, but Kerr admits that “women’s sport still has a long way to go” to be treated with the reverence reserved for men’s sport. In a W-League fixture for Perth Glory against the Newcastle Jets this month, for example, Kerr scored a hat-trick in just 10 minutes – but no cameras were on hand to catch the remarkable feat. They had been packed up after the A-League fixture before it, despite the game being a double header (with the men’s fixture leading into the women’s). Reuse this content Matildas Share on WhatsApp Australia sport Sam Kerr Share on Facebook Kerr performs a trademark backflip after scoring a hat-trick against Newcastle. Photograph: Darren Pateman/AAP Pinterest I think we connect with all different audiences, from young to old, male to female, which is very unusual in sportSam Kerr Read more W-League Read more There is no descriptor too hyperbolic for the year the 24-year-old has had. 2017 will go down as the year Kerr earned the kind of wider recognition very few female footballers have achieved. Some have even touted her as the best in the world – a claim clearly in the ballpark after she was named in the women’s world team of the year in mid-December. Earlier in the month she also added the title of Asian footballer of the year to a résumé chock full of such accolades.When put to her that no less than 91 countries voted for her spot in the world team, Kerr is characteristically humble. “I don’t love talking about myself,” she says, laughing. “But it’s obviously a huge honour. I didn’t know 91 countries had voted. I’ve heard most people are pretty happy with the team, which is quite unusual in the women’s game when there’s a vote.”Kerr was embroiled in a voting controversy of her own this year, missing out on the three-person shortlist for Fifa women’s player of the year. The omission drew no shortage of negative press; beating Kerr was a teenage student who had not represented her country at senior level. But despite outrage from fans and team-mates on social media, Kerr says the oversight did not faze her.“I didn’t expect to be in the top three, and I think that’s why it didn’t bother me so much,” she says. “I’ve seen so many people angry at the system, so I wasn’t going to hold my breath. Once you get excited, that’s when you get disappointed. “But honestly, it just motivates me more. I don’t think people respect the Matildas enough and there’s so many of our players who could be in contention for world player of the year – so it just motivates all of us, really.”last_img read more