Growing up playing football wasn’t easy for the 78-cap Matilda Tameka Yallop (nee Butt), who left her hometown of Orange for the Gold Coast due to family reasons.
“If I had been the type to give in easily my football career probably would’ve been over as quickly as it started.”
Tameka, the youngest sibling of seven children, played most of her junior football as the only girl playing amongst the boys at Mudgeeraba SC.
“No one wanted to lose to the team with the girl on it. It didn’t bother me,” Yallop wrote as a Contributor on PlayersVoice late last year.
“I didn’t try to disguise the fact I was a girl or anything like that. I had the longest blond plait hanging down my back you could imagine.
“You couldn’t miss me. I thought it was all good fun.”
She did this while playing in an open-age women’s competition before being picked for the Queensland Academy of Sport’s (QAS) women’s squad at 14 years old.
Tameka cited her upbringing in a large family as a large contributor to her love of team sports and quick uptake into new environments.
“Coming from a big family gave me some of the principles and values I’ve been able to apply to my football career,” Yallop said.
“I’m pretty easygoing. I’ve got no problem sharing. I enjoy the social side of things, so whatever sport I did was always likely to be a team one.”
The 2007/2008 season was a whirlwind of firsts for Yallop.
Very tactically-savvy, she developed her first taste of professionalism in football at QAS.
She had her debut game in the national set up with the U17 Junior Matildas in an 8-1 win over Hong Kong.
At 16 she was a capped international at junior level and was invited to play for Brisbane Roar in the inaugural W-League season.
Much like her fast ascension from QAS to the W-League, Yallop’s desire to play for Australia came about quite suddenly.
“The first time I realised that I wanted to represent Australia was when I actually found out there was a women’s Australian team”, she admitted while speaking to matildas.com.au
“When I found out there was a women’s team my thinking just switched and that was what I wanted to do.”
It didn’t take long after her junior debut to make it into the senior squad for the Matildas as she walked onto a pitch in the Sunshine Coast against New Zealand.
Only a year after her U17 debut, she stepped onto the field alongside current national team regular and Melbourne Victory teammate Elise Kellond-Knight.
“The moment I stepped out on the field… the feeling is kind of indescribable,” Yallop said.
“It’s everything you’ve ever worked for and everything you’ve ever dreamed of and to share it with eleven other people and even more is a dream come true.”
The Melbourne Victory and Klepp IL regular has 198 appearances and 89 goals in her domestic career to date – 49 of those goals and 108 of those appearances have been for Brisbane Roar FC, where Yallop spent ten years of her playing career.
As an attacking midfielder she has had a prolific domestic career in front of goal and internationally boasts 78 caps and ten goals.
While ten goals may not seem many for a player of Tameka’s calibre, it’s worth noting that every game that Tameka has scored in, Australia has gone on to win.
With that record, here’s hoping the mainstay midfielder has her shooting boots on in France.
Even having been selected for two previous Women’s World Cups, one in Canada and one in Germany, Yallop clearly hasn’t lost any of the passion and love she has for the game.
When asked about the friendly against the Netherlands and the World Cup in general she had a lot of positives to speak of.
“I think any game is exciting for us especially once you are in camp and you are training, and we are training towards our first game at the World Cup,” Yallop said.
“I am looking forward to getting back on the grass and also in Europe, which is where I have been playing club [football], so for me it is less of a transition.
“I think the atmosphere is going to come at us in France and will be pretty similar to Germany, but the women’s game has gotten so much bigger as well since then, so I am excited for it.”
The FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off this Friday, 7 June with the Westfield Matildas to open their campaign against Italy on Sunday, 9 June.
READ: Emily Gielnik’s journey from Queensland to her first World Cup
READ: How Queensland referees earned World Cup selection
WE ARE MATILDAS: Find out what events and competitions are happening during the world cup, and how you can get involved
Image: VCG/Getty Images
Words: Hayden Adams