Football is the greatest game in the world.

And it’s the people who make it so.

I have learned so much about myself these last two years, after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee for a second time.

Anyone who has ever suffered a serious knee injury knows just how difficult they are too overcome.

You’re tested on every level, and it doesn’t take long for your confidence to drop.

It’s the worst kept secret in sport, but rehab sucks. Plain and simple. As a professional athlete, all you want to do is play the sport you love most.

When that is taken away from you, you feel lost and unsure of yourself.

It really is the worst feeling.

It’s why all of us Matildas make sure we get around each other when we know there is an injury amongst the group, because we all know how lonely that process can be.

Personally, I remember I was at a low point when I was not playing with the girls following knee surgery.

When everyone else is out on the training track, sharing laughs and pushing each other to be better footballers, you’re either on the sidelines watching on or in the weights building back your strength.

It’s the separation from the group that gets to you.

You really feel part of a team when you’re together, especially since you spend so many months of the year playing in different leagues around the world.

So you can imagine how elated I was when I received the green light from the Matildas’ chief medical officer, clearing my return to the national team. I remember distinctly the girls and coaching staff picking my spirits back up when we were in camp. It was the best feeling I’d felt in a long time.

Lydia Williams takes a selfie with the Matilda fans.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – SEPTEMBER 16: Lydia Williams of Australia takes selfies with fans after Australia defeate Brazil 2-1 during the women’s international match between the Australian Matildas and Brazil at Pepper Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images)

Our first ever win against the United States was so special to me. It was a real testament of perseverance that you can knock down any barriers that stand in your way.

It really drilled home to me that I have achieved what I have in my career for a reason and if somebody’s opinion doesn’t define who i am or what the achieved i have made, it is what it is in that moment of time.

Because no one sees where you first start out. No one is there watching you as a teenager training by yourself before sunrise or after dark, or missing catch-up with friends because you’re doing everything you can to reach the highest level.

All people see your performances on game day, and judge your character off that. Which is why I am so much more comfortable with trusting myself and knowing who I am and what I stand for.

Those who know me best – my parents, friends and close friends all know the kind of person I am.

And that’s what counts most for me.

For me now, it’s all onwards and upwards.

The next six months for the Matildas program is really exciting; from this point forward it is all about body management & injury prevention, in a bid to make sure you are getting the most out of your body.

Much of that comes down to individual preparation, and knowing how to physically condition yourself and mentally switch off ahead and in between events.

For me, I’ve been challenged so much already just to return to peak fitness, I’m making sure I’m leaving no stone unturned ahead of our upcoming fixtures against China Republic next month.

Lydia Williams

Lydia Williams is an Indigenous Australian soccer player, who currently plays for Melbourne City in the W-League.

Lydia is the first-choice goalkeeper for the Australian Matildas, and is also signed to the Seattle Reign FC.