FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™

FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™

FIFA Women's World Cup

Simon: Cathy Freeman’s success still resonates with me

Kyah Simon at Penrith Stadium in 2017
© Getty Images
  • Kyah Simon is one of Australia’s most experienced players & greatest goalscorers
  • The forward has been front and centre for some of the Matildas’ greatest moments
  • Simon talks 2023 Women’s World Cup, her greatest inspiration and much more

Twenty years ago last month saw what many claim was the greatest moment in Australian sport. Cathy Freeman united a nation by becoming the first indigenous Australian to claim an individual Olympic gold medal in winning the 400 metres at the Sydney Olympiad.

Not far away in western Sydney, nine-year-old Kyah Simon was watching with uncontainable pride and joy. The inspiration was immeasurable and, more importantly, proved timeless.

Indeed, it seems whenever Australia are reaching milestone moments at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, Simon is part of the equation. She scored the only goal as Australia defeated Brazil at Canada 2015 for their first, and only, Women’s World Cup knockout-stage win. Four years earlier, she had become the first indigenous Australian to score at a World Cup as the Matildas beat a European opponent for the first and only time at a Women’s World Cup.

Simon, a proud indigenous woman, has always had an uncoachable big-match quality – what former Australia coach Tom Sermanni called an “innate game-sense”. As an 18-year-old, she was the one to step up and score the decisive penalty as the Matildas broke through for their maiden AFC Asian Cup victory.

After nearly a decade spent alternating between USA’s NWSL and Australia’s W-League each year, Simon is now enjoying a new stage of her career in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven. In this interview, the 29-year-old tells about her new European odyssey, the pain of missing France 2019 through injury, excitement for the 2023 Women’s World Cup on home soil and those memories of the Sydney Olympics. Let’s firstly go back in time Kyah. What are your recollections of Cathy Freeman winning the gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games?
Kyah Simon:
I was at home with all the family watching. We were glued to the TV and so excited when Cathy crossed the finish line. For us, the Olympics were on, but the focus was only ever about her race with the enormous build-up for it. Thinking back on it now it gives me goosebumps, I remember it plain as day. It was a huge moment for sport in Australia, indigenous people in Australia and the country in general.

Did that inspire you then, and does it still now, as an indigenous athlete?
She is that hero for me in terms of a sportsperson that inspired me as my childhood hero. Having a shared culture and being a proud Aboriginal woman, that is what had added resonance with me. It showed me that Aboriginal women can be successful, so it was a huge moment in terms of inspiration and belief as a nine-year-old girl.

Plenty has happened for Dutch women’s football in recent years. How much of a sense do you have that there has also been positive changes in the Eredivisie Vrouwen?
I get the sense they have made huge improvements. Talking to some of the other girls, it has come on leaps and bounds with some of the changes that have been made. Some of the players that have been here six or seven years, they say the changes in that time have been huge. They are definitely progressing and doing more to make the league as good a quality as possible, and that shows with bringing back some international players to the league. It [PSV] is a European-style club and very professionally run, and definitely reminds me of Melbourne City back home, with great facilities.

How are you enjoying your first European club adventure and the football culture?
I love it. I’m now thinking I should have made the move a little bit earlier, but better late than never. I think Europe is where I will likely be for the next few years. I’m embracing the change that living and playing football in Europe offers me.

The football scheduling of being in one team all year round is a big positive, and it is just about the first time I have ever had a proper pre-season. Looking after your body and staying healthy is one of the most important things as a footballer, and this kind of scheduling sets me up to do that. There is so much football on the TV here and not at ridiculous hours, so I also feel like I’m so immersed in football since I have been here and I’m really enjoying that aspect of it as well.

What were your emotions when you heard that the 2023 Women’s World Cup will be heading to Australia and New Zealand?
I was in Sydney for the announcement and it was a crazy experience. It was a feeling of pure elation. Having played in previous World Cups I know how amazing they are, but to have the experience on home soil and having the whole country’s focus on the tournament, like we experienced at the Olympics in 2000, will be huge in itself, let alone to be a part of that. So it has been an exciting time and it will be exciting to see what happens in the next few years during the lead-up.

How did you cope with the experience of missing France 2019?
It was hard. Everything happens for a reason. It has made me more determined for major tournaments in the future and that I do everything I can within my strength and power to make sure I’m there.

Does the tournament hosting inspire you even more, or are you more driven by missing out on 2019?
I think it is a case of trying to focus on now and improving day by day, and not focusing too much on the future and thinking too far ahead. Obviously there are other goals in sight – Olympics in 2021, the Asian Cup, then the World Cup and another Olympics. They are obviously all goals of mine and something I’m working towards. I’m always trying to challenge myself day by day and working towards being in peak form come those major tournaments.

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