For a girl with a dream of one day playing for the Matildas at a World Cup, talented young footballer Sofia Sakalis is on the right path, having just won selection in the Junior Matildas.
Later this month she’ll get the chance to represent Australia on the international stage when the Junior Matildas fly to Vietnam to play in an AFC qualifying tournament for the AFC U16 Championships in China next year.
Of her selection earlier this week, the 14-year-old, Melbourne-born midfielder said: “To be honest, I feel very honoured to be selected and to represent my country at such a high stage.
“I need to take it in, it’s so big. I’m just overwhelmed, but very excited that’s for sure.”
Sophia has made it through a demanding selection process, including playing in two national tournaments for her state representative sides, and has subsequently being chosen to attend two consecutive Junior Matilda training camps at the AIS in Canberra, at which the initial squad of 28 players was whittled down to 23.
Although she was one of the youngest included at the training camps and was up against older, more experienced girls, she wasn’t overawed by the experience and was confident she had performed well in camp.
“It was very hard because all the players had something individually unique and high quality,” she told Neos Kosmos.
“Being a bit older they obviously had a bit more experience. However, it didn’t stop me doing my thing.”
Sophia believes that the experience of being a train-on with the title-winning Melbourne City squad last season helped to develop her game considerably.
“I definitely learnt a lot from doing one train-on season with Melbourne City. Like, all the experience from the older Matilda players and stuff, just the high quality that was there, it definitely developed me as a player.”
Right now it seems that all her commitment and dedication in pursuing the sport she loves have borne fruit.
“I think the selection- all the hard work I’ve put in to football and all the training I’ve done, it kind of makes it feel all worth it. To keep pushing and never give up and keep trying to reach my goal.”
Sakalis is already looking forward to the AFC qualifying tournament beginning in Vietnam later this month, which will see the Junior Matildas play five matches in 10 days against Palestine, Hong Kong, Iraq, Vietnam and Uzbekistan.
“I’m very pumped and I really want to play but it’s all up to the coaches,” she says.
And before that she’ll be closely following the fortunes of the senior Matildas, (several of whom she trained with at Melbourne City), as they strive for a podium finish at the Rio Olympics.