CAITLIN FOORD –
This week has been the toughest of my young career.
Watching many of my closest football friends return home to Australia for the W-League has been hard to stomach.
These past eight months with the Vegalta Sendai Ladies, playing in the Japan Women’s Football League, has an experience of a lifetime.
I remember my first Vegalta training session, laughing with the rest of my then new-teammates who were mocking me for not having a left foot!
Japan is amazing, and there are so many positives I continue to take away from my experience here, having made so many new friends in this wonderful country.
But there is no place like home.
And seeing so many of my Matilda teammates return for the W-League saw me reach a tipping point.
Don’t get me wrong – I love football more than anything in this world. But there have been times this year where I have found myself wanting to be as far away from a football field as possible.
I’ve never felt this way before. I’ve really struggled with homesickness this year, to the point where my health has been impacted.
I recently missed a week of training due to illness, and although the Vegalta medical staff believed I was merely suffering from a common flu, I’m certain the stress and anxiety I have been feeling did not help in the slightest.
It’s just a different world over here.
We have no days off. Ever. If we’re not on the training field, we’re running laps.
It’s a grinding, no-holds barred mentality in the pursuit of team greatness; and one of the many reasons why I chose to play in Japan in the first place.
I’m a true competitor and want to get the best out of my football, and Japan has been enormous in helping me do that.
You do have your days though.
Recently, after the conclusion of our main season I was told by other players around the league that their coaches had awarded them with a full week off in a bid to help them rejuvenate and refresh their body, mind and soul.
So you could imagine my heartache and disappointment when I learned that our coach would only be allowing us two days to recover, as we would be commencing pre-season training earlier than expected.
It sucked – I was absolutely filthy, and at a time when I was already struggling to cope with the high training demands, it made the situation all the more worse.
I was so close to calling my manager and telling him to request a trade back home to Australia. I’d had enough, and as much as I wanted to go back at the time, equally I just wanted to get out.
But I have never quit anything in my life, and wasn’t going to start now.
So I did my best to re-gather myself, and just like I have done since I was little when things would start to frustrate me, I did everything I could to harness it into my football.
At times, football has been my saving grace, helping me re-focus when life seems off balance.
And when I look at it now, and even at the time when I had a moment to catch my thoughts, I know our coach only wants what’s best for us, and that’s why I love playing for him and the Vegalta organisations.
My teammates and I make each other better, and he’s doing his best to instil a winning culture. How can I not support that.
And as my family reminded me, I’m an Aussie battler, and Aussie battlers never give up!