Women’s football often lends itself to players prospering at a very young age. Rarely, though, has there been a more striking example than Australia’s Caitlin Foord. Recipient of the first-ever Hyundai Best Young Player award at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ three years ago in Germany, Foord will only narrowly miss out on being eligible for the same honour at Canada 2015.
Blessed with lightning speed and a rare ability to dribble at pace, Foord was an unworldly 16-year-old schoolgirl when she got the call-up to the national team, just a month out from Germany 2011. Far from being overawed on her national team debut, Foord scored with a dribble into the penalty area and a cool finish after just ten minutes in the international arena. To say it was a sign of things to come would be understatement.
The biggest stage of all
A month later, she was making her debut in the white hot environment that is the FIFA Women’s World Cup. It is hard to imagine an international footballer of any gender enjoying such a rapid rise to prominence. In a remarkable show of faith, then Australia coach Tom Sermanni – now at the helm of USA – showed his astute judgment by slotting the youngster in at right-back, tasked with one primary goal: marking five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Marta. The third-youngest player at the tournament, Foord duly succeeded in keeping the Brazilian superstar quiet, and has never looked back.
“I never expected to play that game against Brazil given I had only just come into the squad,” Foord told FIFA.com. “Tommy (Sermanni) told me the night before the game and said, ‘We have a challenge for you’. I was a bit nervous but I wanted to play and just decided I would go out there and do the best job I could. I find it fun to play against a player like that because of the challenge.
“Having that experience, seeing what a World Cup is like, and how big the world stage is I found amazing. Myself, and all the girls said after the tournament that we can’t wait to do it again. It was such a great experience.”
Fast forward to the present day and Foord, who is still in her teens, continues to shine for club and country. Last year, she figured in the maiden season of the USA’s fully-professional National Women’s Soccer League with the New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC, while she also turns out each summer for Sydney FC, who ironically are nicknamed Sky Blues. The coming fortnight will see Foord aim to win a second successive W-League crown with the Sydneysiders.
“I have improved on and off the field and of course that comes with maturity as well,” Foord said. “I played with and against many US players, and many other internationals, which was a great learning curve.”
Foord nominates Christie Rampone when asked if she was inspired by any one player at Sky Blue. “She has had as much experience as anyone could possibly have, and to play alongside her and get some advice off her was really cool,” said Foord of the USA captain.
Long way to the top
Inevitably, behind every success is an untold back story. Mum Simone drove the youngster in a 200km round-trip from the Foord home in Wollongong to Sydney three to four times a week. “If it wasn’t for my mum I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says the 19-year-old. “And I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to chase my dreams.”
Somewhat quirkily, Foord grew up just a street away from Australia team-mate Michelle Heyman. Doubly remarkably is the fact that they are the only two notable national team players to hail from Wollongong over the past decade.
Foord remains excited about the Matildas' prospects for Canada 2015. “We were virtually the youngest team at the last World Cup, and we will have that experience to call on next time,” she said. “We have so many attacking strengths, and depth to go with it.”
Much has been packed into Foord’s short career, and it is an odyssey that seems destined to include many more fascinating chapters.