Lisa De Vanna is one of Australia’s most experienced football players. She’s well known for her exceptional dribbling skills and her fast pace as the striker and co-captain of Australia’s national women’s football team, the Matildas.

After representing Australia in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, Lisa is the only Matilda on track to compete in a second Olympics in Rio in just 30 days’ time. Additionally, she has competed in three FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments: China 2007, Germany 2011 and Canada 2015.

Lisa recently shared her thoughts with us on her Olympic qualification, preparation and aspirations, and how these compare to her Athens experience 12 years ago.

When did your passion for football begin?
It began when I was six years old. I would always be outside kicking a ball with family and friends. I looked up to my brother and realised from a young age that this was what I wanted to pursue in life.

How did it feel when the Matildas qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympics?
The qualification process for Rio was challenging. It has been a long journey since my last Olympics in Athens and it was both a relief and a surreal feeling to qualify for the first time through the Asian Football Confederation. The team’s performance showed great character and reflected hard work and dedication. I was excited to qualify and am even more excited for August!

What was the highlight of your Athens Olympic Games experience?
The Athens 2004 Olympics was my first major tournament. It was a fitting place as it marks the beginning of what is the greatest sporting event on Earth. It was an honour to mingle with world class athletes and I embraced the experience of living in the Olympic Village.

How will your preparations for Rio 2016 differ from Athens 12 years ago?

The team has more preparation time and we have had a funding increase which will allow us to be in Rio much earlier to adapt.

How do you think your experience in Rio will differ from that of Athens?
Women’s football has evolved since 2004. Over the years, Australian players have gained experience playing in international leagues and we have introduced a strong domestic W-League competition which has enabled players to develop. The increase in quality and players means that Rio 2016 will be a football spectacle.

What would an Olympic medal mean to you?
An Olympic medal would represent the hard work, sacrifice and dedication of Australian players. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and winning a medal would be a significant achievement that most people only dream about.

Do you think the Matildas are a medal chance in Rio?
Yes, we are going to Rio with the aim of winning a medal. The last 18 months has provided challenges and this is the biggest one yet.

What would you like to say to a younger aspiring footballer?
Enjoy what you do, embrace the challenges and make sure you stick to your beliefs and values.

When you’re not playing football what are you up to?
When I’m not playing football, I enjoy the simple things in life – socialising with friends and family and spending time with my dog.

Are you preparing for life after sport, and if so how?
The football environment has allowed to me help with the development of the game, showing younger athletes the opportunities that are available for females in sport and I am slowly working on gaining my coaching accreditation.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given about your money?
Firstly, do not spend more than you earn. It is important to learn the difference between wants and needs. As an adult, it is important to invest wisely and budget strategically.

The Matildas Olympic opener against Canada will kick off on August 3 (August 4 AEST), two days before the official Rio 2016 Olympic opening ceremony.

As the major partner of Professional Footballers Australia, we were proud to see the Matildas’ recent success and would like to wish Lisa and the rest of the Matildas the very best of luck in Rio.

Keep kicking goals, girls!

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