With the ParaMatildas now midway through the group stage at their inaugural World Cup, goalkeeper Katelyn Smith answered Impetus editor Ben Gilby’s questions. It’s an inspirational story of bravery and overcoming barriers to join her heroes Sam Kerr and Ellie Carpenter as the list of female Australians who have represented their country at a World Cup.
Above: Katelyn Smith enjoying training with the ParaMatildas. Photo: Ann Odong – Football Australia.
“To be wearing the same shirt as them now – it’s really good. I never thought it would happen, but now it is happening, it’s just the best feeling in the world.”Katelyn Smith on her heroes Sam Kerr and Ellie Carpenter.
It’s been a long road for Western Australia-based 26-year-old Katelyn Smith to travel in order to represent the ParaMatildas at the World Cup. She takes up the tale of her footballing journey.
“I first played football aged four or five with my brothers at the local soccer field. I played and trained right up until I was 16. I then had a break and went to athletics before returning to soccer two years ago.”
That journey has been one full of challenges and hurdles as Katelyn explained. “Playing with a disability is a challenge, particularly when playing in a mainstream setting. Being on an all-boys team as a girl makes it harder. Having the boys believe that you can do what they can do on top of having a disability on top makes it…,yeah, harder.
“I overcame it by just sticking to playing soccer and not listening to them. I blocked it all out and continued to play.”
The ParaMatildas goalkeeper, who scored a sensational long-range goal in their 12-0 win over the Netherlands in the opening game, highlighted her footballing routine in the West.
“At the moment in WA, I don’t play with a team. I just train with the Cerebral Palsy (CB) team boys every second Saturday and they are really welcoming. They are really good with having girls in their team.”
The Australian team found out make-up of the inaugural World Cup squad whilst in Canberra a few weeks before the competition. Katelyn revealed how the news broke.
“We were in camp and heard the news there on the last day of camp. But, we were not allowed to tell anyone! So we had to hide it but also show it at the same time!”
Katelyn has been watching World Cups for years on TV, and it is still sinking in that she is going to be following in the footsteps of some Australian footballing icons.
“The quality of football at World Cups, both men’s and women’s is really good. Any of Sam Kerr’s goals are good – particularly her headers. As a little girl growing up, I wanted to be a Matilda. Knowing that there is a ParaMatildas pathway now too is even better. To be in the very first (ParaMatildas) team is just the icing on the cake.
“In terms of who has inspired me, growing up, I liked Sam Kerr. I’m a big fan of Ellie Carpenter as well. Her coming onto the scene at such a young age really inspired me that young girls can do it.
“To be wearing the same shirt as them now – it’s really good. I never thought it would happen, but now, it is happening, it’s just the best feeling in the world.
Katelyn outlined how she thinks the team will go in Spain during the competition. “I think we will have a good chance at the World Cup. We know that America are really fast, but other than that, we don’t know too much. We’re going in to give it our best shot.”
In terms of ParaMatildas players for fans to keep an eye on during the tournament, Katelyn had no hesitation before naming one – with a huge smile on her face. “Georgia! Georgia Beikhoff has got a mean boot! As I’m the goalie, I just want to run behind the net (when she shoots) in training! She’s just got a big boot and her ball skills are incredible.”