Sam Kerr has always been a football juggernaut. Finally, the rest of the world is catching up

Like so many great moments in football, this one seemed to happen in slow motion; as if the universe wanted us to enjoy every little detail – every muscle twitch and flex, every quirk and bend in physics, every vibration in the air – that made this possible.

Sam Kerr watches the ball fall towards her, not so much falling from the sky as being gently lowered into her path by an invisible hand.

By reflex, his body prepares to receive it: the arms stretch in a dangling way for balance, the right leg curling backwards.

His eyes don’t flicker; they follow the ball from her highest arc to the unseen spot halfway up her calf where she knows it’s going to hit it.

Sam Kerr’s two goals against Arsenal earned Chelsea the FA Women’s Super League title and their second Golden Boot in as many campaigns.(Getty Images: Catherine Ivill)

And she does. Slowly, perfectly. The angle and force of his foot creates a top-spin that completely changes the trajectory of the ball, looping up and down before settling into the back of the net.

It’s a stunning goal, the guy you know as it happens is one of the best.

But there are few to see it.

Certainly no one to gasp and clap, to instantly upload all-angle highlights to social media, or to nominate him for the goal of the season.

There’s just an 18-year-old Kerr kicking a ball around in the dim light of a Canberra football pitch, watched by her teammates, a blogger and a host of native birds.

Loading

It was 2012 when Kerr was slowly coming out of the first serious injury that nearly ended his career.

It’s a harmless video, really. A relaxed, if slightly nervous, teenager standing on the grass at the Australian Institute of Sport, wrapped in a black hoodie, learning to answer interview questions on camera.

But even back then, you could feel it: the same relaxed, happy attitude that now characterizes her entire style of play. herself.

A decade later, the same freedom and fun in football that saw her score that goal on the training ground is the same that saw her score one of the most iconic goals in history. of the Women’s Super League: A spin and volley of such outrageous technique and the moment when, this time, it went viral.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows for volume.
Australian Sam Kerr leads Chelsea to third consecutive title(Optimus Sports)

And Kerr was just as nonchalant about it afterwards as she was 10 years ago.

“Just put it in the back of the net,” she shrugged during broadcast coverage.

“The first one, he just popped up. Normally I don’t hit him with my left foot, but I was like, ‘Why not? Give it a chance. And then yeah, the best bins.

And then the second […] he sat up fine and I thought, “I’m just going to hit him.”

“Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But a really big part of my game is seeing myself in moments before it happens, so when it happens I feel super calm.”

That’s the thing with Sam Kerr. She has always been like this. The talent and the focus have always been there – if a bit rough, if a bit rusty and raw, if a bit set back by the two major injuries she suffered at 18 and 21.

Two soccer players, one dressed in purple and the other in white, during a match
Even at age 15, Kerr’s coaches could see there was something different about her.(Getty Images: Robert Cianflone)

Talk to one of his early trainers and he’ll tell you he saw him before anyone else.

“Even at that age, she was just someone doing something and you were like ‘wow, who is that girl?’ She just had those qualities,” said former Matildas coach Tom Sermanni, who handed Kerr his first national team cap at the age of 15.

“People talk about playing with a smile on your face, playing football like you really love her and giving it your all – she got that from the minute she joined the team.

She was never afraid to try daring, to trust her body to do the things her ambitious mind wanted. Increasingly, over the years, these two aspects have aligned.

Loading

“For someone who was still at a relatively young age, her dedication to getting better at what she wanted to do was the thing that shone through and the thing that continued to serve her so well,” said Jamie Harnwell, Kerr’s head coach at hometown club Perth Glory, where she began her transition from winger to striker in 2014.

“Definitely the finish after practice (training) we had some really good role models, Kate Gill would do the same, she would do extras, Collette McCallum had been in the game for ages taking free kicks and doing the works .

His dedication off the pitch translated into success.

From 2012, she has won more individual accolades and broken more records than almost any other Australian athlete in history: seven Golden Boots on three different continents, 10 team trophies in multiple competitions, multiple MVP awards and caps Team of the Year, even an Order of Australia – the first ever awarded to an active footballer – in the same year she became the country’s all-time leading goalscorer.

So if she’s always been a superstar, what’s changed?

It’s that now, finally, the rest of the world is paying attention. And they can’t get enough.

Everything Kerr does – whether it’s scoring goals or celebrating them, winning prestigious awards alongside the best in men’s football, flattening pitch invaders in otherwise forgettable matches, even sharing a moment with his partner on Instagram – immediately generates a flurry of activity.

Sam Kerr pushes the pitch invader
If football doesn’t work out, rugby could be Sam Kerr’s next sport of choice.(Getty Images: Warren Little)

And it created an interesting change not just in Kerr’s life, but in the wider momentum of women’s football.

Because the 28-year-old young woman now enters the rarefied air often reserved for her male counterparts: the world of the athlete-celebrity, the world where she is no longer the moral spokesperson for the club or the sport that she represents the world where she no longer asks for cover.

Instead, these days, the cover begs for it.

One-on-one interviews with Kerr have become nearly impossible to obtain. Journalists flock to every opportunity available to them. Successive layers of management insulate her from the more unpleasant parts of fame, giving her autonomy and the power to control how she spends her energy and who she gives her time to.

This one sign, perhaps, that women’s football is truly progressing: its brightest players are no longer treated as charity cases of media coverage, and that they no longer feel responsible for promoting their game to anyone who takes the hard to pay attention to.

Kerr is arguably the first footballer to turn the tide. Ten years ago, footballers like her were lucky enough to have the slightest media interest. You’re lucky if Kerr is interested in you.

Microphones surround a woman speaking in front of a branded backdrop
Kerr is one of the most recognizable footballers on the planet today.(Getty Images: Matt King)

And while this protective bubble may suggest a kind of distancing from the community that has grown up around her, Kerr remains entirely herself to those who matter: her friends and family, her teammates, her staff, His fans.

She’s still the laid-back girl from Fremantle making jokes in the corner of the dressing room; the faithful friend who would risk everything for those she loves; the bubbly, fearless teenager who tries ridiculous things in practice just because she can or because it’s funny.

Tonight she will play her second successive FA Cup final at Wembley in front of more than 50,000 people.

Last time she was here, she was named Player of the Match after scoring two audacious goals, including a chip that gave Chelsea a 4-2 victory over Arsenal.

Loading

If she wins this weekend, she will add another paragraph to her already storied chapter of history: becoming the first Australian to win two FA Cup finals.

And the world’s media will be there watching, dissecting and discussing his every move.

Her dynamic races will be analyzed on computer-generated models, her goal contributions will be broken down from every high definition angle, her celebrations will be tweeted, shared and liked, and she will be overwhelmed by journalists and fans in equal measure after the the final whistle has long since faded in the skies over Wembley.

His abilities on the pitch were rarely, if ever, questioned. But before Sam Kerr became Sam Kerr, they were also rarely seen.

A lot has changed in the decade since that chilly Canberra afternoon when a young Perth girl tried tricks for fun and learned what it was like to talk in the barrel of a camera.

Not only has the Matildas captain established herself as one of the greatest players of all time, but the rest of the world is now starting to take notice and is finally giving her – and the women’s game – the limelight. that they have always deserved.

Leave a Comment