2010 Asian Cup Rewind: Leena Khamis reflects on the "proudest moment" of her life
As we rewind time back to the Westfield Matildas’ historic 2010 AFC Women’s Asian Cup victory, we remember the players that secured the win for Australia.
Leena Khamis was 24 year old when she stepped onto the pitch at Chengdu Sports Centre in China for Australia’s first match against Vietnam.
Unknown to Khamis and the mere 1000 people in the crowd, Khamis was about to be the initial spark that would send the Westfield Matildas into the history books.
In the 28th minute of Australia’s opening match, the skilled striker with a keen eye for goal would head home a curling ball from teammate and best friend Kylie Ledbrook.
While the exact details of the goal are a little hazy a decade on, what Khamis does remember is the profound feeling of pride to be a part of such a significant tournament.
“It was amazing. It’s an awesome feeling to be a part of the team, to create history and win the first Asian Cup,” she said from her home in Sydney.
“I remember moments from that tournament like it was yesterday, but to think it was ten years ago, wow how time has flown.”
Khamis’ goal in the match against Vietnam was made all the more special with Ledbrook’s assist. Their friendship was formed five years before the Asian Cup and has only grown stronger over time.
“Kylie is my best mate and we’ve been best mates for over 20 years. We’ve been playing together for almost 15 out of the 20.”
“We’ve got a good connection on the field and to share that moment, for her to assist the goal, it’s not the first and it’s still not the last she’ll assist. She takes a lot of credit for all the goals I’ve scored throughout my career,” she laughed.
Ledbrook was also on the scoresheet as her calm second half penalty sealed the victory for the Aussies.
Despite debuting for the Westfield Matildas’ two years earlier, the Asian Cup was Khamis’ first major tournament. Khamis would go on to represent Australia at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2011 and 2015, as well the silver medal winning 2014 Asian Cup squad. However, 2010 still has huge significance.
“It’s the part of my career that’s definitely a highlight,” she said.
It was the first silverware I had with the team and I have my Asian Cup photo with the trophy up in my Mum and Dad’s house.”
The Westfield Matildas’ victory in the Asian Cup was no easy feat. Playing conditions in China are never easy to combat but for Khamis the squad were ready to take on any challenge thrown their way to secure the win.
“It’s always tough going to China,” she said. “From the climate, to the humidity, the air quality is completely different, the heat,”
“Playing in their conditions in their crowds, it’s always hard for Australians going over there but we’ve always got the ‘Never Say Die’ mentality,”
“The Matildas have had that for years and years and will continue to take that into every tournament as we did then.”
While Khamis watched on from the bench during the final against DPR Korea, despite the nerves, Kyah Simon’s final penalty has remained Khamis’ favourite moment from the tournament.
“When Kyah (Simon) scored that last penalty against North Korea and we all just bolted onto the field, we all run to the girls that were playing on halfway.
“We slid and jumped in the torrential rain, you would like we were like ten-year-old kids just playing outside in the backyard in the mud and rain.”
“It was just an awesome feeling and the celebrations went on and on and then the rain and conditions didn’t matter at all.”
The 2010 Matildas squad was filled with an unprecedented amount of hungry and talented players ready to make their mark for their country.
Reflecting on the capability of the 2010 squad, Khamis was just content to be a small part of the team.
“The calibre of that team, to be a part of it, was just special,” she said. “You’ve got the likes of, babies back then, but Sam Kerr, Kyah Simon, Teigen Allen.”
“All those girls were younger back then but look at what they’re doing these days, to be part of a stellar and quality side was just an amazing feeling.”
“I’ll never take that for granted, ever.”
The 2010 Asian Cup was only the beginning of Khamis’ Westfield Matildas and Westfield W-League career.
For the Australia she made 25 appearances, while in the Westfield W-League she proved to be a prolific scorer with 42 goals and sitting in the top 5 of all time goal scorers.
Today, Khamis has retired from the Westfield Matildas and Westfield W-League. However, with the awards, championships and accolades she has amassed over a thirteen year career at the summit of Australian women’s football, putting on the Matildas jersey for that Women’s Asian Cup has topped her list.
“I look back and take a deep breath in and go I was a part of that, I did that,” she said.
It’s the proudest moment of my life.”
“Growing up as a kid I wanted to be a Matilda. Every time I put on the jersey, I got Goosebumps and shivers and I was nervous.”
“Representing your country is the best thing you could ever do."