Tameka Yallop: “It was only one step toward what I wanted to achieve”

It’s been thirteen years since Tameka Yallop made her debut as a Westfield Matilda. Now the midfielder looks back the moment that started her international career.

As the Westfield Matildas were getting ready for their penultimate Beijing Olympic qualifying match against Hong Kong, Tameka Yallop (née Butt) was also getting ready to mark her debut in the green and gold jersey.

Despite the gruelling heat and humidity, Yallop played an integral part in securing the Westfield Matildas’ comprehensive 8-1 victory, even scoring a goal of her own in the first half.

 “I actually don’t remember too much about the lead up,” Yallop said.

I just remember it being a young Matildas team and the aim for me was to have fun as there wasn’t added pressure of playing with all the senior players.”

Making her debut at just 17-years-old, the nerves that come with representing your country for the first time were alleviated for Yallop by playing alongside the likes of Elise Kellond-Knight, Kyah Simon, Caitlin Cooper and nine others who were also new to international football.            

“It was a young team, with pretty much every one that got on the field receiving a cap,” she said.

“So, in terms of being nervous, there wasn’t so much of that as everyone was in the same situation and we were playing with people we had been training and playing with for a while.”

Yallop and life-long friend and team-mate Kellond-Knight have continued that journey together on the world stage. Along with representing Australia, the pair have played together in the Westfield W-League and for Iga FC Kunoichi in Japan’s Nadeshiko League.

It was cool to debut with KK. I think that was the start of our Matildas journey and it’s awesome to look back and see how far we have come.” 

The self-assured and confident Yallop knew that achieving her first cap was just the start of her footballing journey.

“It was a special moment, walking onto the pitch knowing that from this moment on I had a Matildas cap,” she said.

But at the same time, I knew it was only one step toward what I wanted to achieve and that I still had the journey of playing with all the senior players and on home soil to come.”

Since her debut, Yallop has gone on to represent Australia 78 times, but her debut as a Westfield Matilda remains one of the highlights of her career.

“Looking back, I don’t think there is much I would change,” she said.

“I think we were lucky in that we could embrace everything without the added pressure of the nerves that usually come with a debut.”

With her Westfield Matildas debut being over a decade ago, Yallop has represented Australia at three FIFA Women’s World Cups and at the 2016 Rio Olympics; achievements she puts down to years of hard work.

“It’s always hard to describe the feeling of representing your country and to have a career spanning 13 years of playing for your country is a little surreal but very much worth all the hard work and sacrifice.”