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Nike FC Cup Journal: Elena Reid

Nike FC Cup Journal: Elena Reid

Article by: Bella Sewards

Wed, May 18.22

Nike FC Cup Journal: Elena Reid

Elena Reid’s modest and grateful nature allows her to perfectly articulate how women should be celebrated and admired for doing the things they love. Born in Sydney, Elena has played football ever since she can remember. Her great talent has been thoroughly recognised throughout her life, and she’s been able to prioritise and appreciate her opportunities by pursuing football as a hobby, whilst making a career out of teaching. 


Elena’s affable presence can be felt by everyone in the room. She shows a great appreciation for life, and for the opportunities she’s been afforded. Her humble personality stems from her family, who she describes as driven, intelligent and sport focused. “I’m so grateful for having two parents that were both so encouraging,” she says. “I just felt like for me, sports just always made sense.”


Growing up in Beijing, Elena attended an international school and was provided great freedom in discovering her passions in life. Football was just one of these. “I was just very young and I was very outdoorsy, and I just picked up a soccer ball and it just became a part of my everyday life.”  

 

Like many other female footballers, Elena discovered early on that there was a lack of support and interest for girls teams. When she first joined a team in Beijing, “it was mostly geared for boys - they had mixed teams so that’s how the girls could come into play. Then, over time we sort of had more structured womens, and girls teams,” she explains.   


Being the youngest child, Elena was often left to her own devices as she became obsessed with mastering football tricks. She’d spend her free time watching videos online and teaching herself different skills, which helps explain the immense talent she possesses to this day. “When I turned 13 or 14, I was asked by my coach to go train with a local Chinese district team… that was sort of the path to go more into, I suppose, a professional soccer opportunity.”


Elena trained with the district team for about a year, although her mind wasn’t set on becoming a professional athlete. “Those local girls had been picked [from rural parts of China], and for them, soccer was an opportunity to have a good quality life.” The environment was intense and highly competitive. “I think I just lost the fun, playfulness and joy,” she says. Elena selflessly felt as though her position in the team was taking one away from someone who valued the opportunity more than her. “I knew I had other opportunities, which is a privilege in itself, so my mind was never fully in it.” For Elena, football was a hobby that brought her immense joy, as well as a pathway to develop friendships.



When Elena was 18, she moved back to Australia to attend university. Such big life changes were daunting, and Elena had to adapt. “Initially it was a big culture shock,” she says. It is evident that Elena is so appreciative of the chance to achieve her goals, as throughout our chat she often pauses to acknowledge her privilege.

 

After arriving in Melbourne, Elena joined the Melbourne University Soccer Club. “I had a key interest in joining the club as soon as possible,” she says. She was thrown into an attacking role, and her exceptional technical ability was immediately recognised. Her skills earnt her an affectionate nickname that she still goes by six years later, ‘Legs’. “It’s funny isn’t it. I love the nickname.” 


In her first three years at the club, Elena won two league-wide best and fairest awards. On reflection, she admits she never really thought about what the awards meant at the time. She assumed it was a fair play award, rather than recognition for the most valuable player. “It’s nice to get that recognition.” Her modesty is on full display.


In Nike FC Cup matches, Elena’s team has often played against oppositions from the top tier in Victoria, in as far as the quarter final stage. In these clashes, she has been pivotal, where she controls the play despite the pressure. “I’m comfortable with the ball and like taking risks.” In many ways Elena’s playing style mirrors her personality, as she exhibits a calm and collected manner on the pitch. 


Elena speaks so highly of her club, which brings a variety of people together, including both local and international students. “The thing that you notice, at least for me playing with the Melbourne University Soccer Club for about five years now, is just how you feel, like you’re in a melting pot of just different types of people,” she says. “It’s such a warm and accepting space.” 


Away from football, Elena started working as a high school teacher last year. With remote learning in place due to Covid-19, she had to navigate the start of her career under difficult circumstances. It meant taking a year off football, as she focused on work. This year, without the added challenges of remote learning, Elena returned to play. “I think I'm in a really good workspace that allows me to stay connected [to football],” she says, “which also just extends my love for the game even more.” 


Elena is both gentle and kind, and teaching has further influenced her outlook on football. “I value respect in sport… it’s never about competition for me, it’s always fundamentally about respect, and through that I can compete.” This further emphasises her character, in acknowledging the need to balance competitiveness with integrity.


As a footballer myself, I value the way Elena spoke about respect, and how she feels empowered by the women around her, who commit so much time towards football on top of their everyday lives. “At the end of the day, we are all here for a reason and like minded for the fact we enjoy soccer,” she says. 






With so much talent on the pitch, Elena has previously attracted interest from top tier clubs in Melbourne, however she’s happy where she is. “I’m really happy with the decision to stay here at Melbourne University... they are my friends and teammates.'' 


I write this story in admiration of a player and person who at a baseline, is so respectful. She is humble, modest and appreciates the opportunities presented to her. Prioritising your own happiness is a skill that Elena has mastered. As a teacher and footballer, Elena remains motivated and engaged in both aspects of her life, hoping to continue both passions far into the future. 


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