Barbieri balances ball and ‘Bubs’

When it comes to commitment to the cause Adelaide United goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri is almost without peer.

The Melbourne-based Barbieri will again split her time between her hometown and Adelaide where she will don the gloves for a second season with the Lady Reds.

At 34, the long-serving Matildas shotstopper has confronted many a hurdle both on and off the field, but these days the challenge is perhaps greater than ever before.

A mother to 18-month Holly, Barbieri, somewhat ironically nicknamed ‘Bubs’, will spend the second half of the week based in Adelaide during the Westfield W-League season.

“Being a female footballer forces you to be a talented juggler in terms of work, life, football and balancing it all. So I’m used to it you could say. It’s hard but I have a great support network so I’m lucky.

“Holly certainly doesn’t care, she seems happy, I come home and she calls me Nonna!”

Barbieri is now approaching a third decade in senior women’s football, having debuted during the mid 1990s in the old Women’s National Soccer League... as an outfield player.

It is just another layer in Barbieri’s multi-tiered back-story.

Yet for all the varied experiences, she says last season at Adelaide United was like no other.

Under new coach Ross Aloisi the Lady Reds ended a three-season hold on the wooden-spoon and remarkable fell only narrowly shy of a berth in the semi-finals.

And Barbieri says the team camaraderie in the City of Churches is almost without peer.

“This is something that might only happen once in your career, where you have a club team that bands together in this way,” she said. “It is almost a national team vibe. I told the girls last year this very rarely happens. It is very special and goes right through from the young kids to the older players. I love it.”

“The older players are so grounded, people like Kristy Moore. That bodes well for the younger players, and they take that on board to their credit.”

So is the same vibe in the squad this year? “Absolutely. South Australia is really good at bringing up grounded, humble players. And I include Ross Aloisi in that. And he proved he can make a difference to the team over the past 12 months.

“I really feel I can leave a legacy with these girls, and hopefully we can build even further on this camaraderie.”