Alexia Apostolakis: "Play like no one's there"

Alexia Apostolakis is one half of a solid CommBank Young Matildas centre-back partnership that has appeared in every game at the AFC U20 Women’s Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2024™ so far.

To do the role well requires organisation, communication, and hours upon hours of training drills, but the making of Apostolakis as a footballer didn’t come from the training ground. It came from the game distilled to its purest – a player, and a ball, in a park.

“When I’m by myself and I just get to practice, get on the pitch and there’s no one there, that’s my safe space,” the 17-year-old told Football Australia media.

“Growing up, when I used to go to the park with my Dad a lot, that’s when I really found that love for that safe environment. Just kicking the ball with him, there was no pressure, and I just felt that I could do anything.

“I still find that when I’m stressed or at training, things aren’t going well, or during the season, I definitely take the ball to the park and that’s where I find myself again, just getting my touches on the ball and shooting – just find my love again for soccer.”

She attributes her interest in football to her older brother. Highly competitive backyard duels ensued after their parents enrolled them in multiple sports, including football, together. While he ended up following other sporting interests, it was the round ball game that stuck for the younger sibling.

For Apostolakis, the key to playing well is to “play like no one’s there” – to be the kid at the park, with no pressure and no stakes.

Alexia Apostolakis on the ball in Game One of the AFC U20 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2024 against Korea Republic. Photo: Adam Aidil Padali/AFC
Alexia Apostolakis on the ball in Game One of the AFC U20 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2024 against Korea Republic. Photo: Adam Aidil Padali/AFC

“When you take pressure away, and you try to think about why you started, why you’re there, I think it really helps,” she continued.

“Everyone starts from somewhere. I think it’s really important to hold on to that… having that reason why you started is really important and it’s kind of like a moral compass, you’re guided by why you’re started and you keep going.”

The Western Sydney Wanderers defender has been earmarked as a player to watch since she debuted in the A-League Women as a 15-year-old. She has racked up an astonishing 40 appearances in the league before she has turned 18, and has been a regular starter in all three of her seasons as a professional footballer so far.

Despite her busy schedule, finding time to be studious is something that Apostolakis takes pride in.

“It’s all about time management and also having that really good support system from friends, family, and obviously my teachers,” she explained.

“My family especially has been very good at keeping me balanced, and keeping me stress free, which I think is the key to it.”

Apostolakis was born in Australia to a Filipino mother and a second-generation Greek father. She reflected that her family background gives her a unique perspective – the “best of both worlds.” She stays connected to both sides of the family but most importantly, they help her keep a balance in life between the football, friend, and family spheres.

“It’s really important to have balance as a football player,” she mused. “Even in a social aspect as well because you know, some things may not go well if you pour your heart and soul into one thing, it may collapse. I think it’s really important to have that backup system that can keep you afloat in the hardest times as well as bring you joy.

“Winning the little challenges in life like handing in an assignment, or scoring a goal, can really bring balance to both worlds. I think that’s really important.”

At the end of the day, it is spending time with her friends that makes her happiest.

Alexia Apostolakis embraces teammates in the huddle after scoring against Uzbekistan in Game Two of the AFC U20 Women's Asian Cup 2024. Photo: AFC

“My football friends especially, they make me very happy because I’m always with them,” she reflected. “I’m always with them every morning, every night in camp. I’m away with them for four weeks at a time.

“I’ve known my roommate [Daniela Galic] for two years straight. We live together, everything that a family does, we’ve done together. So yeah, would start calling them family.”

At the end of the discussion, Young Matilda was asked something that she struggled to answer at the beginning – who is Alexia Apostolakis?

“Someone who has a very warm personality, very inviting and confident,” she smiled. “I love to talk to people and meet new people. I’m always open to new conversations. I think I’m someone who’s very passionate at what I do. I’ll put 100% into whatever I’m doing in that moment.

“And yeah, I think I’m a good friend.”

3rd/4th Place Play-Off
Australia v Korea Republic
Date: Saturday, 16 March 2024
Kick-off: 1.00pm (local) / 7.00pm AEDT
Venue: JAR Stadium, Tashkent 
Broadcast: 10 Play