Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Girlswithgameprofile - meet Aivi Luik

She would prefer to play in the midfield, but has dabbled in everywhere from up front to centre-back, has an impressive American career for Women's Premier League soccer team FC Indiana, a playing stint in Ukraine that included UEFA cup qualifiers and a knack for scoring match-winners in important games, like the winning penalty to win the 2005 American Women's Soccer league title and three goals in three games in that UEFA champions league series.

 So what brings Aivi Luik back to Brisbane Roar and Australia?

 A few days out from kick-off, girlswithgame caught up with the 24-year-old Gold Coast girl at a Matildas camp to find out why.

 GirlswithGame: You have been playing in the American W-League for Indiana FC for a while now and last year spent a stint at a club in Ukraine, what made you want to come back to Australia?
 Aivi Luik: I want to play for Australia, it's always been a desire of mine and it's my number one priority now.

 So you have never played for the Matildas before? No, basically after high school I got a scholarship to college in America and I played for four years, did my degree and in the summer I played for a club team called Indiana FC and as soon as I graduated the team became more professional and they had a three-month pre-season and played from May to August. Because it became more professional I was signed for two more years and then after the season, I went to Ukraine for the off-season, but now I think, I'm 24, I want to make the [Australian] team and I think now is the best time to do that. That they have the league here now I wanted to come and play here and try and make the national team.

 Were you happy to get straight into Matildas camps? I attended a Matildas camp in March so I kind of knew that I was in the loop then but to come back and go straight into the Queensland team, when it's the strongest team, we have so many Queensland girls in the Matildas, it's just been great.

 What are you expecting from the W-League? Have you been able to watch much? It's basically just been what I can get off YouTube, the first one that I actually saw was last year when Canberra United beat Queensland by one goal, so my jaw kind of dropped at that. But what I have seen, it is a really good level. Once I started training with the girls I was blown away with how great the standard is, I think this team would give Indiana a run for their money and I think we were ranked fourth in the world a few years ago, so we had a pretty strong team.

 So tell us about Ukraine...
The offer came through and I spoke to my mum as she's from Sweden and she was a bit sceptical about it, eastern europeans countries are a little bit dodgy in terms of safety and my coach at Indiana, who is Polish, actually said 'if you were my daughter I wouldn't let you go', so it was a bit 'oh my gosh'. But I though, A chance to play in the European champions league, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. [which she made the most of, scoring the match-winning goals in three games that finished up 1-0,1-0 and 2-1!]. I went over there and it was great. There were certainly barriers as far as language goes, but it was fine. It's not something I'd probably do again, living standards weren't that great and you feel very spoilt when you come back, but it was a great experience and I loved it.

 What was the league like in terms of professionalism? [In terms of payment] it was kind of enough to live on, as pretty much everything like lodging and food is taken care of, but in terms of standard it's nothing compared to the standard in America or here.
 Read more about Aivi's season in Ukraine in this great post from theglobalgame and from a post on the UEFA site here.

 What are your goals for this W-League season and Matildas? For the Roar, definitely to win it. Trying to win a league back to back is one of the hardest things you can do. I found that out with Indiana in one of my first years, we didn't have the players and it didn't quite work. But the girls are great, we are a great team and we are all really motivated. With Matildas, I know this is the last camp before January but I'm just hoping to be in Tom's thoughts and hopefully be one of the players selected for the World Cup qualifiers in May.

 You have scored a lot of goals in your time overseas, particulary match-winners, but where do you prefer to play? I like centre-midfield, but I've pretty much played every position apart from outside back. This season actually I was centre-midfield, more defensively, but our centre-back was drafted to the LA Soul (in the American WPS) so I was put back into centre-back. I used to play outside mid for Indiana in my first few years and occasionally I'll go up front in the last part of the game, but generally I'm a centre-midfielder.

Is that where you want to line-up this Saturday for the Roar against Canberra United? Definitely. The last few pre-season games I've played in the middle with Loz Colthorpe and we've started to get the connection going, so we're just hoping that it gets better and better. But who knows what Jeff [Hopkins] might do with his starting line-up as there will probably be Matildas players sitting on the bench. It's a good problem to have, but no-one really knows who will start.

Are you hoping that you will add a surprise factor to the Roar this season? I have played with a few of I guess the older girls a while ago, Karla Reuter, Lana Harch, but not a lot of people know me and throughout the W-League I don't think that many people know me. One of the girls parents said, "Oh, I got an email from another mum who said 'I hear you have recruited an American'," I definitely an Australian! My parents are Swedish and Hungarian, but I'm a born and bred Australian.

Do you do anything outside football here? At College I got a bachelor of science of geography, but I concentrated on soccer straight after I graduated so I haven't been able to do much with it, now coming back to Australia and not having any contacts plus the GFC, getting a job within my degree could be very hard so I'm just looking for a part-time job for the mornings, as I'm a Gold Coast girl we travel up in the afternoons to train.

Finally, for all aspiring Matildas (and Socceroos) out there, what's the best ever football tip you've recieved? I would probably say, to never give up and that's a lot easier said that done. There has been times when you are struggling so much, but if you can hang in there....I saw Man U come back to win one of the cups a few years ago and they were losing and then scored two goals in extra-time and that's an example of a top class team that doesn't give up. Ever since I saw that game, I've always thought, make sure you never never give up and my mum says that as well, just whatever you do, don't give up.

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