This article was first published in Champions Journal. Read the original article here.
“One of the main reasons I came to Europe was to win the Champions League,” she says, before referencing the 2021 showpiece against Barcelona that didn’t go to plan. “Going to the final and losing – I kind of got the taste for it. Now that’s the main goal: to win. It means even more now than it did when I first came.”
She scored five goals in the group stage this season, with Chelsea finishing top above Paris and Real Madrid. “Every football fan wants to turn on the TV and see those big matches, those big rivalries,” she says, her eyes lighting up. “It doesn’t matter if it’s men’s or women’s football: it’s the same format, it’s the same game and people are jumping on board and watching it.”
Kerr picks up on this theme, noting how changes to the women’s game have successfully brought in a new generation of fans. “Young girls growing up can support the women’s team they want, whereas back in the day maybe there wasn’t a Liverpool or a Chelsea in their league. And that’s not only in the domestic leagues but in the big European games as well. It’s only the start, but it’s really nice that young girls can now pick the team they want to support – and aspire to play for.”
In talking about the growth of her sport, Kerr touches on a key element of its rapid rise to prominence. “The one really unique thing about women’s football is that everyone feels this collective bond to grow the game. You can see that from the engagement with the fans, the media.” She’s certainly doing her bit, particularly with her presence on FIFA 23’s Ultimate Edition global cover, taking equal billing alongside Kylian Mbappé.
“I kind of knew it would be a big moment – to finally have a female on the world edition – but it was much bigger than I anticipated. The reach that FIFA has… You don’t realise. Everyone plays. Even non-football fans. The number of people who have come up to me and said, ‘I’ve seen you on the cover,’ who would know nothing about football otherwise, has been really cool.”
And what about her team-mates – were they suitably impressed? “Erin Cuthbert’s really into it; she’s a big gamer. The rest are all smarty-pants, reading books.”
Kerr can help there too: she has her own series of children’s books. “For ages, everyone’s been hassling me to do an autobiography and I’ve been like, ‘I haven’t done anything; that would be the most boring autobiography in the world.’ So this was kind of stolen from an autobiography idea, but for younger kids to read about my journey.
“Young girls can now pick the team they want to support – and aspire to play for”
“I hated reading when I was a kid, but I would have loved to read about my favourite athlete. It’s been really cool to connect with children on a different level; they always ask me questions. I’ve had a really good response to it and it’s been one of the most rewarding things in my career, so it’s been awesome.”
Also awesome: a World Cup on home turf. The latest iteration kicks off in Australia and New Zealand on 20 July – and Kerr can’t wait. “I mean, you see with the ticket sales already: over half a million and we’re still six months out from the tournament. Then, on a personal level, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play at a home World Cup; so many players don’t get to. It’s going to be, probably, the biggest moment in my career, just by stepping onto the pitch.”
She’s keen to see how her country reacts to being taken over by a sport that doesn’t involve an oval ball. “I think this is really going to show Australia that football is the world game, because at the moment it’s dominated by the NRL and AFL. To bring a World Cup and for them to see the amount of support that comes in, the number of fans and just the culture around football… it’s going to be a real eye-opener for our country alone. And then, on a world level, this will probably be – hopefully be – the biggest Women’s World Cup ever. I’m very excited.”