Bend it like Accardo

Isabella is doing everything she can to make it as the next Matilda and she’s definitely one to watch.

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda. A soft hum is vibrating across Australia as the Matildas national football team come home to play in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, their first ever home World Cup.

Isabella Accardo is an up-and-coming football player excited to see our best players. With her natural talent for playing on the field, she has the potential to become a future Matilda.

‘I’ve booked in for two games at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium and can’t wait to see them play in my hometown,’ Isabella said.

Isabella started playing when she was just 9 years old after seeing her 3 older brothers play. Getting restless just sitting in the car waiting for them to finish, she decided to join them.

She dipped her toes in training sessions and then joined the local junior team. Her talent shone through and she was quickly enrolled with Football Victoria’s Talent Identification and Development Centre (TIDC) Program. The program works with gifted young players to develop and train them with elite coaches and provide opportunities to join future squads.

‘The program has opened up so many doors including invites to play with the Junior Matildas in other states along with a training camp in Adelaide,’ Isabella said.

Football field

Recognised as a player to watch, Isabella was invited to join the National Training Centre which develops key skills and techniques and offers opportunities to play with senior players.

Now 17 years old, Isabella plays with the Melbourne City A-League Women’s team, while juggling the demands of her schooling.

‘Mum and dad have been super supportive of my sporting interests outside of school, dropping me off at training and attending some of my milestone games,’ Isabella said.

In 2022, Isabella had the opportunity of a lifetime to play for her country in the ASEAN Football Federation Under 18 Women’s Championships in 2022. And the cherry on top? The Aussies won the tournament with Isabella firing home the last of Australia’s four goals in their group match against Malaysia.

‘My parents flew up to surprise me and I was so happy they got to see that winning match,’ she said.

‘We were doing stretches in the carpark in the lead up and then to celebrate with the other girls in our hotel rooms, singing and playing music – it’s pretty surreal.’

Isabella’s development as a professional player will be advanced with the opening of the Home of the Matildas precinct at the La Trobe University Sports Park in Bundoora. It will serve as the new home for the Matildas, Young Matildas, Junior Matildas and ParaMatildas, providing facilities to train the national women’s squad.

Indoor swimming poolIt's also the new home for Football Victoria and as a National Centre of Excellence, will provide a lasting legacy for the game in the development of the next generation of football superstars.

Isabella was lucky enough to be part of a group of young footballers who received a sneak peek at the state-of-the-art facilities, even before the Matildas.

‘We trained on the new grounds recently to test out the pitch and facilities,’ Isabella said.

‘After the World Cup, we’ll be able use the facilities for training – the pool is just insane.’

Along with Isabella’s team, other local football clubs will have access to the centre’s pitches and community level training and programs.

As a defender and mid-fielder, Isabella enjoys doing slide tackles and snatching the ball back if another player runs past her.

‘Success always comes with hard work and dedication, don’t be too hard on yourself,’ is Isabella’s advice to other young players.

Isabella’s dream is to one day play for Arsenal in England’s Women’s Super League. To play in any of the top leagues in Europe and soak in the passion for the sport in that part of the world would be the ultimate goal for Isabella. With games played in front of packed stadiums, it’s the sporting stage any player would like to be on.

‘Everyone has a different path, just be patient and take it as it comes and remind yourself how much you love the game.’

Golden, and wise, advice from one who might be Victoria’s next Matilda.

The La Trobe University Sports Park is part of the Victorian Government’s investment in the La Trobe University’s Sports Park Stage 3 redevelopment which supported 600 jobs during construction.

Read more on Sport and Recreation Victoria.