If Aivi Luik had conformed to other people’s perceptions about age, she’d be spending the next couple of months honing her love of surfing rather than gearing up for her first FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The veteran midfielder has been forced to ensure plenty of heartache in the past, narrowly missing the cut for both the 2011 and 2015 tournaments.
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“It’s the hardest when you’re younger and have everything riding on it and think you are doing well, only then to hear the words ‘you’re not in’ was a real blow,” Luik explained from the team’s training base in Antalya, Turkey.
“For the next few weeks after it, it was really low to the point where it made it difficult to watch [the World Cup] on TV.”
Having turned 34 in March and been on the cusp of the Westfield Matildas selection, there was a thought Luik may again miss out on a spot in Ante Milicic’s 23-player squad for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup which kicks-off next month.
But the Levante playmaker proved age is just a number to book her seat on the plane to France in a Westfield Matildas squad that is one of the main contenders for the title.
It’s a reward for her perseverance as much as her football talent, knowing she easily could have thrown in the towel given a series of selection setbacks over the years.
But she was never going to let her age be the reason for missing out this time around.
“Age gets thrown around so much but my 34 can be someone else’s 29,” Luik said.
“My body is different to the next persons and where I am in my career physically is different to someone else’s.
“If I’m feeling fit and playing well so why put a number on it? Because of my age people do ask ‘how much longer have I get left?’.
“It’s a question I used to try and answer because I feel I had to satisfy other people’s curiosity but I quickly found out it’s not something you can put a number on.
“If you are still enjoying it and passionate about it, you just keep going.”
And that’s exactly what she has done through a 14-year career that has seen her play everywhere from the Westfield W-League to stints in the USA, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and, most recently, Spain.
While her selection is undoubtedly one of the highlights of her career to date, it’s also been well received by a few of her teammates for reasons aside from just football.
Like Luik, defender Laura Alleway and midfielders Tameka Yallop and Elise Kellond-Knight are keen surfers and are thrilled to have another member to their surfing crew.
“We’ve been surfing buddies for years. It brings us closer together because out in the ocean it clears your mind of everything,” Luik said.
“You are in the moment, all you are thinking about is the next wave and having fun.
“When you are on that wave and if I’m paddling out and I see Loz (Alleway) catch a wave and she might do a really good trick, it puts a big smile on your face.
“Unless you surf it’s hard to explain the feeling but you just have so much joy for each other and it brings you closer together.”