Australian Football legend Cheryl Salisbury goes 1v1 with the PFA to share with us what it means to be Olympian, her pride in the current generation of stars and why the Matildas are set to make history in Rio.

PFA: At the Sydney Olympics you did what athletes all over the world dream about and became an Olympian. What does this mean to you 16 years on?

CS:   I have honestly got goosebumps just thinking about it. It is just something that you dream about as a kid. I remember watching the Olympics on TV and at that stage I didn’t dream of playing women’s football, there was no women’s football at the Olympics. I was the only girl I knew that played soccer so that was not a dream to play soccer but I was thinking ‘what would it be like to come out at the opening ceremony in one of those jackets and play in the Olympic games.’ Those dreams came true and I still get goose bumps 16 years on just thinking about it. Herb Elliot said to us “once an Olympian always an Olympian,” and that is going to happen for those girls now.
PFA: How different do you think the experience will be for the players this time around?

CS: We had had a full-time program leading into it, but once the Olympics were over it was like ‘off you go back to your own states.’ I moved to South Australia and I was left without a team to play with. I wasn’t allowed to play with the boys team because they were sexist even though I had played with men all my career. I was not allowed played with SASI, because they played in an U14 boys comp because and they said I was too strong, so for me I was just completely cut off and isolated. I think that is the biggest thing that has changed, now once a tournament is done the slate is wiped clean and we move forward and focus on the next thing, that is the biggest difference in the last four to five years.


PFA: At Athens in 2004 you made it all the way to the Quarter-finals, were you surprised by how quickly you had progressed?

CS:  It still feels like ‘imagine if we would have had that full-time training environment like we did in the lead up to Sydney, how well would we have done.’ I think we would have done even better if we did as we had a very good side.

I think the importance of preparation was shown in this Olympic qualification campaign, even though it could have been better. Staj (Alen Stajic, Matildas Head Coach) has still had to fight to get training camps and games and that is big difference between men’s and women’s football still.

PFA: How heartbreaking was the failure to qualify for the 2008 games?

CS: In was shattering in 2008 to miss out and be beaten by our nemis North Korea. It shattered everyone as there were a lot of players from 2004 that were ready to go again, and for a lot it would have been their last chance, but they were in their prime and were still great players.


PFA: How much did you enjoy watching the Matildas qualify this time round?

CS: As I said earlier once an Olympian always an Olympian and it is the same with the Matildas. You are still looked up to by the younger players and you are still known for being a Matilda so you are still part of the team and I still feel like I am. The joy for them was obvious and they deserved it and they believed in themselves and I will keep coming back to that.


PFA: What advice do you have for them?

CS: They just have to have that belief in themselves and I think Staj has done a great job instilling that into them. I’m sure they will do well. Over the history of the Matildas no matter what the situation has thrown at us the resilience of the team has been built on everything we have had to overcome. The players rise above it all and continue to make ourselves better as people and players.


PFA: How far can they go?

CS: I think they can make the finals. I think every player in that team would be disappointed if they don’t. Every player and every former player thinks they can win a medal.

Each month the PFA will go 1v1 with a current or former member to gain insight into the lives of footballers on and off the pitch.