Veteran Westfield Matildas goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri has announced her retirement from international football, bringing the curtain down on a stellar career in the green and gold.
Barbieri made 86 ‘A’ international appearances (equal 6th on the all time list) having made her debut against Canada in September 2002.
Barbieri, the 120th capped player for the Westfield Matildas, was a mainstay between the posts for Australia’s national women’s team for the good part of a decade, and holds the record for the most number of clean sheets for the Westfield Matildas (34 in ‘A’ internationals).
The 35 year old, who started as an outfield player before transitioning into a goalkeeper at the age of 20, made the decision to retire from international football after the Westfield Matildas’ FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 campaign.
Reflecting on her career, Barbieri says she feels both proud and grateful for what she has been able to experience and achieve during her career.
“Being a footballer can be very selfish at times so it’s a matter of doing what’s best for everyone involved in helping me pursue my international career, especially my mum and my husband but most importantly my daughter Holly considering how old she is and the amount of time I have to spend away from her,” Barbieri said.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved over the years. I came into the sport as a child being told women don’t play football and grew up in an Italian household where women predominantly stayed at home and looked after the kids and certainly didn’t venture out into a male dominated sport, so I feel like I’ve broken down a lot of barriers becoming a footballer.
Barbieri featured in four FIFA Women’s World Cups and was the Matildas captain when Australia claimed the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2010.
Her longevity and ability to sustain an elite standard was illustrated when an injury to Lydia Williams saw her start in goals in Australia’s opening match of this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup against eventual champions the USA in what would be her final appearance in a Westfield Matildas shirt.
“Becoming captain was probably the most memorable part of my career before winning the Asian Cup in 2010, and then ultimately coming back into the team and finishing off with a cap in Canada where my international career began,” Barbieri stated as career highlights.
“I debuted in Canada in 2002 and my last game was in Canada which is an amazing turn of events and it’s a journey that I’m very proud of.”
Westfield Matildas Head Coach Alen Stajcic reaffirmed the impact Barbieri has had on Australia’s national women’s team, describing her contribution to the game as massive.
“She’s unique in a sense that she came from being a field player to becoming a goalkeeper and to have such a long and successful career is a tribute to how much work and effort she put into her game,” Stajcic said.
“She captained her country and has been a prominent person on and off the field…overall she has made a massive contribution to the game.”