As a child Nicole Christodoulou would watch video clips of Ronaldinho and run around the schoolyard exclaiming she was going to become a Westfield Matilda.
And since being selected to take part in the 2019 Asia Oceania Regional Female CP (cerebral palsy) Football Camp, Christodoulou has realistic goals of becoming an international footballer.
The Regional Football Camp, which brought together female footballers with CP from around Australia and Japan, was held last week and was an intensive period of training clinics.
It’s the first camp of its kind in Australia, and could be the first step towards a national female CP side akin to the Pararoos.
- Main image: Nicole Christodoulou (centre) with Westfield Matildas Katrina Gorry and Ellie Carpenter
And for football-mad Christodoulou, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I’m shaking at the moment thinking about it because I’m so excited,” Christodoulou said.
“I used to walk around the playground when I was a student at school and tell everyone I was going to be a Matilda one day.
“I’d come back from school every day and watch videos of Ronaldinho, I’d come home and practice, do tricks and learn things.
“Then I had a stroke when I was 21-years-old, and I had to learn to walk again, I had to learn to do a lot of things again.
“The physio asked me what my goal was and what we were working towards, and I said to them I wanted to play football again.”
Now 26, Christodoulou’s path back to playing football has been both long and arduous, but the skilful right-winger says one day she made a discovery which gave her even more motivation to recover.
“I was at home one day and thought to myself ‘do I qualify for the Paralympics?’ So I looked it up and found the Pararoos, I saw the Pararoos all have my condition or conditions similar to mine and I got excited,” Christodoulou said.
“The first thing I did was send a few emails around, and I got a response back from the Pararoos coach who said ‘there’s a Pararoos Development Centre happening, are you interested?’ And I said ‘of course’, so last year was my first year back playing football.
“It’s different to what I’m used to because my body has changed.
“But I’ve improved every week, and all the coaches have seen a lot of improvement in me.
“I’m happy; it’s brought so much good to my life, and it makes me happy now.”
Along with the Regional Football Camp, Christodoulou has participated in the 2019 National CP Football Championships, playing for Capital Football.
It’s the first time females participated in the competition, making both the National Championships and the Regional Football Camp pivotal moments in the history of female CP football.
And to be a part of these exciting steps being made in the women’s game is something Christodoulou says she’s tremendously proud of, and hopes to continue into the future.
“I feel very excited that I got to be a part of this, because it’s like making history,” Christodoulou said.
“Females getting to play together with the males makes me excited because we’re human as well, it’s a nice way to show we’re all equal and we’re all the same, and we can play together.
“I want to feel what it’s like to be an international player. It’s just the beginning, it’s very exciting."