Matildas superstar Sam Kerr opens up on why she kept her gender a secret as a junior footballer: ‘One of the boys cried when he found out I was a girl’
- Kerr is Australia’s most popular female footballer
- Captains Matildas and plays for Chelsea
- Click here to watch Mail Sport’s brand new show ‘It’s All Kicking Off’ in full
Matildas striker Sam Kerr has revealed she had to masquerade as a boy just to get a game as a junior footballer before being forced to quit playing for her team because she was being left with black eyes due to rough play.
The Matildas dream run through the FIFA World Cup is shattering both the perception of women’s sport and TV viewing records in the process – but Kerr’s memories are a reminder that Australian soccer still has a lot of work do.
Writing in her new book My Journey to the World Cup, the Chelsea striker recalls cropping her hair short and pretending she was a boy for five to six years as a junior so she could get on the pitch in East Fremantle, just south of Perth.
‘I knew I’d be the only girl on the team but that didn’t worry me at all,’ Kerr wrote.
Before she was an international star, Kerr had to pretend she was one of the boys just to get a game of football as a junior
Kerr is now one of Australia’s most recognisable athletes and is enjoying enormous popularity during the Women’s World Cup
Kerr cut her hair short with frosted blonde tips so she could pretend she was a boy when playing football
‘I didn’t want them to treat me any differently just because I was a girl.
‘I remember one of the boys crying when he found out.’
Kerr gave as good as she got early on, but eventually the physicality became too much and her family had to intervene when she came home with shocking injuries.
‘As good as I was out on the field, and as much as I loved playing the game, the physical differences between the guys and me eventually became too pronounced and the play was too rough,’ she wrote.
‘One day, I came home from a game with yet another black eye and bloody lip, and that’s when my dad and brother both said, ‘Nup, this isn’t happening anymore’.
Kerr was a talented footballer from an early age. She was also a cheeky kid and was asked to leave school in Year Nine
‘I was getting battered around so much out on the field that it was getting to be a big problem. Dad and my coach both sat me down then and said it was getting far too dangerous for me to continue to play.
‘They said they were sorry, but that I wasn’t allowed to play football any more. I understood the reasons why, but I was heartbroken. Back then, there were no girls’ teams in my area for me to join, and to know that I’d never play a sport that I loved so much ever again was devastating.’
That rough introduction to the sport steeled Kerr, however, and she went on to become Australia’s best female footballer as she makes $650,000 a season playing for Chelsea in the UK.
That’s an amazing achievement in itself, considering Kerr also revealed in the Disney+ documentary series Matildas: The World at our Feet that she was asked to leave school in Year Nine for being ‘naughty’.
Ellie Carpenter also played with and against the boys as a junior because there was no girls football team where she lived
Carpenter and Kerr along with Matildas teammates Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley celebrate their penalty shootout win over France on Saturday night
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Another Matildas star who grew up playing with the boys was Ellie Carpenter, who dreamed of representing her country from a young age.
‘When I was growing up, I was with a boys’ team, I didn’t have a girls’ team,’ Carpenter told media after the 2-0 win over Denmark in the World Cup group of 16.
‘I went and watched the Matildas play when I was 12 years old, and I think there was 300 people in the stadium, but that still wanted me to play for Australia.
‘I still was dreaming to play on that pitch with the girls, and I think now if I was a 12 year old, in Stadium Australia watching sold out crowds, like how amazing that is for them, young girls, young boys to see that.
‘How far we’ve come is just unimaginable.’
The six-part documentary Matildas: The World at Our Feet is available to stream on Disney+ now.
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