Shivani Mehta’s earliest football memories come from a time when she could only just about walk.
“My earliest football memory is from when I was three, my parents put me into a football skills session at the local club,” she recalled.
“I was the only girl and had no idea what I was doing, but I remember just running around with my friends having the time of my life. From that point on I know I wanted to play this game for the rest of my life.”
Mehta is a multi-sport athlete who recently made her debut for New South Wales in the WNCL, Australia’s domestic one-day (50-over) cricket competition.
This year, she decided to take it back to where she began as a three-year-old, and is returning to play football.
“Balancing a number of sports has been the story of my life and definitely a challenge over the years,” she said.
“Many people don’t believe it’s possible to play multiple sports at high and competitive levels – however, with hard work and dedication, it is possible to balance them. That’s why I’ve decided to start playing football again alongside cricket.”
She counts Australian Rules football, futsal, touch football and softball among the sports she has grown up playing – an extraordinary number for anyone, let alone someone who has played professionally in a sport as a teenager.
Like many multi-sport athletes in Australia, she grew up idolising Ellyse Perry, who debuted for the CommBank Matildas at 16 years of age – the same year that she debuted for the Australian national cricket team.
However, it is her parents that inspire her the most.
“My parents inspire me, through their hard work and dedication in everything they do,” she explained.
“My Dad was a professional squash player in Kenya where he grew up, so he knows what it takes to get to the top. My Mum still plays football games on the weekends and trains every day which is very motivational.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without all their support for me – driving me to countless training sessions, endless physio appointments, and of course their words of wisdom!”
Her favourite football memories are those that she has been able to share with her teammates.
“A fond memory I have had was having the opportunity to fly to Coffs Harbour in Year 9 to play a school football match,” she recalled.
“It’s very rare to be able to get a plane for just one school match, and I remember the whole team being so excited.
“Also, having the chance to play with A-League Women stars Rachel Lowe and Sarah Hunter in my game, and throughout my schooling years, has created some memories I’ll never forget.”
Like so many footballers throughout the country, she is looking forward to the FIFA Women’s World Cup, coming up in July and August and being held in Australia and New Zealand.
“I am definitely looking forward to seeing Australia play – and in particular, Sam Kerr!” she said.
“As arguably the best player in the world at the moment, I’m excited to watch her be able to perform on the largest stage in the world, and hopefully lead Australia to a World Cup victory.”