23 - Caitlin Foord: Finding myself again
In Episode 3 of '23,' Caitlin Foord shares how she went from losing her love of the game to proudly representing her country in her fourth FIFA Women's World Cup.
Announced to the Matildas' FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 squad for the World Cup on home soil, fans have had the pleasure of watching Foord, the teenage prodigy from Shellharbour become an international name.
In her first World Cup appearance in 2011, Foord was the youngest Australian to ever don the green and gold at a World Cup. Here, the then 16-year-old picked up the Best Young Player of the Tournament award along with the Asian Women's Young Footballer of the Year award and Australia's U20 Women's Footballer of the Year award.
Signing on for the inaugural W-League season (now known as the A-League Women) with Central Coast Mariners, Foord would spend her developmental years playing for Sydney FC and Perth Glory, while later, moving to the US to play for Sky Blue in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) and Japan for the Vegalta Sendai Ladies in the Japanese Women's Football League.
In recent years, Foord made the move from the Portland Thorns (NWSL) after a huge signing with Arsenal in the Women's Super League in 2020. This signing is one she credits with reigniting her love of the beautiful game.
"[Prior to signing with Arsenal] I lost my love for the game a little bit. I was just going through the motions," Foord explained.
"When I was at Portland, I wasn't playing many minutes and I didn't really understand why. To be honest, I didn't really care and I think that showed me a lot because I'd never been in that position before. It's never been like me to not care, so that was a real eye-opener for me.
"Looking back, I know the reasons for it, but at the time, I didn't have a clue. Playing back-to-back seasons in America, playing here in the W-League, it was just too much. It wasn't as exciting for me anymore. I knew I needed a change and that's what sparked my move to Arsenal," she continued.
"To be surrounded by world-class players, to have to be at my best every day was a new challenge and that's what I needed in my career. The change that I've gone through, has been the best for me."
Linking up with fellow Aussie and then-coach Joe Montemurro helped bring Foord back to her roots.
"I was getting out of my comfort zone and moving to England to a league where I knew I was going to be away from home a lot, but at the same time, I was going to be settled somewhere and have a place to call home," Foord explained.
"Joe was the coach at the time and he knew the player that I wanted to get back to being. I remember my first few sessions with him, he said to take the pressure off and just bring it back to basics. He could see that I really wanted to get back to where I was, but I was trying too hard to get there.
"He told me to strip it all the way back and start fresh and I think that's what helped me find myself again. Now, I think I am in good form. I feel good. I'm feeling confident and I think I can be the player who can help change the game. My position is to score and create goals and I believe I can do that."
Although the Matildas are currently on a ten-from-eleven winning run, results weren't always so positive. Tony Gustavsson took over the team in September 2020 and by September 2022, fans had seen a mixed bag of results including 13 losses, five draws and eight wins.
During that time, Gustavsson was blooding the next generation of Matildas, along with strengthening the experience of those already in the squad.
"We had 18 debutants over the last year and played the toughest schedule in the history of this program," Gustavsson explained when announcing his 23-player FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 squad. "There was a report presented to me, showing that we needed to work on depth and that we had very bad stats against top-ranked opposition."
Fast forward less than one year later and the Matildas have defeated eight nations, including four ranked in the world's top 10; Sweden, Spain, England and most recently, France.
Foord explains how the team handled the uncomfortable but necessary process.
"That time was really frustrating for us. You never want to put on the green and gold and lose games," she said. "But to get the results in recent games has been huge for the team, especially the game against England."
"We had a lot of key players out [Foord included, due to injury] and a lot of players had to step up, so to have a game like we did, and to beat them on their home soil after they were on a [30-game] winning run, was massive for our team moving forward.
"Just to show how much depth we do have in the squad, that's something we've missed before, so I think that's what's most exciting. We now know we can rotate, we can rest players, and still be at our best."
With the team peaking at the perfect time, Foord says she is excited for what's ahead for the Matildas as they continue their FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 campaign.
"To have the World Cup here on home soil, it just hits different," she said.
"Having family, friends, the fans who have followed us throughout our careers able to come to the World Cup is very different and we do have an opportunity to change the game here in Australia."
When answering who or what will be motivating Foord when she takes the pitch in front of home fans across the course of the tournament, she rightly wants to claim this experience for herself and those closest to her. Most importantly, her teammates.
"To be honest, I think it's going sound quite selfish, but to play for your country and to do everything that I've done and the girls have done throughout their careers... We're the ones who have made the sacrifices, made the moves overseas and spent hours, days, weeks, and months away from our families," she shared.
"To win for ourselves would be special because it's what we've been working so hard toward, we grew up playing together and have experienced the highs and lows together, so when we walk out there, we know what opportunity we have in front of us. We know we're going to fight for each other and give it everything.
"Just to know that every single player has done the work to be where we are, we want to make something special out of it and I know that they're going to give as much as what I'm going to.
"Raising the trophy would be the reward in the end and to experience that with the girls who have done the exact same thing to get here, would make it all worthwhile."