Young Victorian football star Sofia Sakalis has become the first female footballer to take out the annual Colonial State Sports Boost.
Fifteen-year-old Sakalis was selected from 20 finalists shortlisted from 600 talented young sportspersons from all over Australia. Of the twenty finalists she received the most votes following a nationwide month-long public vote.
The $20,000 Sports Boost award is an initiative designed to assist talented young elite sportspeople as they strive to achieve their sporting dreams.
Sakalis being awarded is testament to her considerable talent, and also to the growing popularity of the sport which she loves and to which she has devoted much of her time and energy.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos, she commented on what the award means to her and the difference it will make.
“Winning the Colonial First State Sports Boost is huge . . . playing at an elite level with no financial assistance puts a lot of pressure on my parents financially. To compete in five-day national championships [means] the costs [can mount up to] $2,000. My soccer fees, equipment [and associated costs] also add up.”
As she moves closer to the professional ranks, where the game requires increased speed and intensity, she also acknowledges the increasing physical demands on her body.
“I have noticed as I get older I need to get professional help, guidance, and assistance in areas to keep my body healthy and prevent injuries. All this costs more money. I now have [the grant] to use for the next couple of years.”
Apart from the financial support that the award brings, Sakalis takes great pride in becoming the first woman footballer to receive the award in its four-year history, gratefully acknowledging the support of those who voted for her.
“I think what I am most proud of is that it wasn’t only a win for me, but a win for soccer and for women’s soccer. I was the only one representing soccer and it means a lot to have beaten all the other codes. The award obviously boosts my profile and many are waiting to see what I will do going forward, I’m always up for a challenge and I will continue working hard. A big thank you to the FFV, the football and Greek communities that really got behind me and voted,” she says.
“Awards like this are special and are almost like an unexpected gift because normally you are expected to pay to play and this gives you the backing and support to move forward and reach your goals and dreams.”