Inspirational Aimee is living her football dream
“I can't put a price on what football has given me,” explained New Zealander Aimee Phillips as she arrived at Cardiff Met Women for the latest chapter in her football career.
And while the international striker prepares to play in the UEFA Women's Champions League, she offered an inspirational message to young girls across Wales who are following similar ambitions.
“When I reflect on my football journey, it actually makes me feel quite humble,” she explained to FAW.cymru. “You meet people that you will never forget, and I can't even explain how much it means to be able to have that opportunity.
"Growing up in New Zealand there weren't many opportunities for women. I'm 27 now, and I know so many players who could and should have been playing professionally, but had to give it up for other careers and couldn't live their dream. When I talk to them now it's really nice because they're so happy to see what I'm doing, and sometimes I forget that.”
A leap of faith saw Phillips swap her teaching career for the life of a female professional footballer, and having represented her country as a full international, her journey has taken her across the world with Cardiff her latest destination.
“The reality is that the women's game is still on the increase,” she added. “Your not going to get rich playing women's football right now, but to experience playing in places like Serbia, Thailand, America, you can't put a price on it. I feel really grateful that I've been able to do that.”
Phillips has quickly made a positive impression at the Orchard Welsh Premier Women's League champions as Cardiff Met prepare for their return to the UEFA Women's Champions League, and the Archers have made an equally positive impression on her.
“I definitely love the girls,” she explained. “I feel like the Welsh people are very friendly and I've felt very welcome. I've really enjoyed the facilities, the coaching and the sports science here is fantastic. I'm very happy, lucky and feel grateful to be here. I'm very excited. A year ago I honestly would never have thought I would be in the UK and Wales, so that's how quickly things can change in football.”
Cardiff Met Women have been drawn in Group 6 for their latest UWCL qualifying campaign, and will take on Romanian side Olimpia Cluj on Tuesday, 7 August. Hosts Kharkiv provide the next challenge on Friday, 10 August, with Maltese outfit Birkirkara the opposition on Monday, 13 August.
Only the ten group winners and the two best runners-up will progress to the knockout round of 32, and Phillips has seen enough during her brief time in the capital to believe her side have every chance of reaching the next stage.
“I know we've done as much as we can possibly do,” she explained. “So it just comes down to those games now which will mean playing under a lot of pressure. Having played in Serbia, it's a completely different game. The girls here are a lot more athletic and a lot faster.
"Everywhere you go, people play with different techniques and different styles, but I think the confidence in this team is very high. It's important for my career to play in these qualifiers, because this is an opportunity that might not come around again.”
And it's making the most of such opportunities that has enabled Phillips to travel the world through playing football. “The main thing is, if you really enjoy what you're doing, do it,” she added. “It's going to be tough. Some people get an easy ride, but the reality is that every opportunity that you have is going to be hard, and as long as you have a passion for it and know why you're doing it, that will get you through.
"To live your dream playing football anywhere, even if you're not getting paid, is an enjoyable thing to do. Enjoy it, figure out what you want from it, and try your best to push through and get whatever that is.”
"The Archers family has really made me welcome. I love Wales, I love the coaching staff, the sport science team are amazing and the girls always a good laugh. I can't wait to unleash serious business on the field if given the opportunity. Beast mode activated." -- @aimeefphillips pic.twitter.com/SxR1R3Thgv— Cardiff Met WFC (@CardiffMetWFC) July 21, 2018