Karly Roestbakken: "I do believe that I'm going to get better from this"

In just over a year, Westfield Matildas defender Karly Roestbakken’s world has turned on its head in the best possible way. 

15 months ago the daily routine of Karly Roestbakken was not dissimilar to many other teenagers with family, friends, school and sport at the forefront.  

My Football Live banner

Today she sits in an apartment in Lillestrøm, half a world away from her family and navigating life and football as an independent 19 year old professional footballer.  

“I'm learning as I go,” Roestbakken said of her time in Norway.  “This is my first time living alone and I don't really know every little thing, but it's been really interesting.”  

I have to do all the things that they [her parents] would do.  I'm learning that I actually can do those things, whereas if I was at home I would be thinking ‘no way I couldn't do that!”

“It's just little things like when you have to go to the bank and open an account; manage your money and financials, pay rent, grocery shopping and everything like that.”

Teenage dreams

It is her ability to adapt and grow rapidly that saw Karly Roestbakken take the most of an unexpected opportunity ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019.  

After receiving a late call up to the squad as an injury replacement, the Canberra native’s work ethic resulted in a Westfield Matildas debut against Brazil in a tense second group match.   

Karly v Norway
Roestbakken taking on Norway at the FIFA Women's World Cup

Since that debut, Roestbakken has gone from strength to strength helping the Westfield Matildas qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.  

“When I look at the past 12 months, there's a lot of emotions,” said Roestbakken.  

I wanted to play football at the highest level, on the highest stage so I've always wanted to play for Matildas, play for my country and put on that jersey.  For it to all kind of have happened in such a short amount of time is crazy."

“I've been given this opportunity of a lifetime so I could not thank Ante and Ivan enough because they have literally made my dream come true. I'm so grateful for it.”  

Another consistent season with Canberra United, where she was appointed a co-captain, saw Roestbakken orchestrate a move to current Toppserien champions LSK Kvinner.  

It is her first professional contract overseas and the learning curve has continued for a player who thrives on challenges. 

In the LSK Kvinner squad are recent World Cup attendees like veteran Emilie Haavi and Cecilie Fiskerstrand, and last year the team produced eight France 2019 players. The move has met and surpassed Roestbakken's expectations and provided a real chance to continue her growth.  

“The couple of weeks that I've been here, I think that I've improved immensely; on the football pitch and off the football pitch.” she said.  

I think that I've gained a lot more maturity and on the football pitch, I think that I've been pushed from my first session.”

“I do believe that I'm going to get better from this. After my first session, I woke up thinking ‘I'm going to grow and I'm going to get so much better in this environment’. 

“That was so important to me to feel like that because I wanted to be in an environment like that.”  

A family affair

Off the pitch, Roestbakken has had the opportunity to reconnect with the Norweigan side of her family tree.  For Roestbakken, who left Norway at a young age, the country and language in some ways has felt like a homecoming.  

“My Norwegian is getting better actually,” she laughed.  “When I was little, I used to be able to speak it fluently and then I kind of lost it going back to Australia.”

“I can understand a little bit and it's somewhere in the back of my mind, I just need to draw it out again. But I'm understanding a lot more than I can speak it.”  

On the family side, it has been an welcomed chance to spend time with her father Jack’s side of the family.  With some members only 90 minutes away, the 19 year old has used her down time to visit with relatives.  One particular family member has been happy to see Roestbakken’s return.  

“I have a lot of family on my dad's side. It's heartwarming because I was not able to see them that much. They're all really big supporters of my football and they all love it.” 

My grandma, she's the cutest thing ever and I think it's really special for her to have me here. To be able to spend time with my grandma, it's really special because [growing up] I haven't been able to just hop on the bus or drive to her whenever I want to.” 

“That's why I'm so grateful to this sport and that's why I love what I'm doing.  Football has reconnected me with my family here.”