As the Canadian women’s soccer team prepares for their match this afternoon in the FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinals military brat Rhian Wilkinson, right-back with the Canadian team, looks forward to the challenge.
Growing up in a military family 33 year-old Wilkinson says her father put them through their paces, and that a military mentality permeated the family.
“My whole family has been in the military. My father was in the Royal Air Force and both my grandfathers. Both my grandmothers were in the Women’s Land Army in the Second World War, an uncle was in the Royal Air Force as well. He retired as a Wing Commander. My brother serves with the Canadian Grenadier Guards,” said Wilkinson.
The world class soccer player, a native of Baie d’Urfe, Quebec, moved back and forth between Canada and Wales when her father was in the military. Finally they left the UK and moved permanently to Canada so the children could have as many opportunities as possible.
“This is my fourth World Cup. Being in Canada is a dream come true. Having friends and family able to attend games is very special,” said Wilkinson, whose nickname is Rhi-Rhi.
As a military brat Wilkinson was involved in many sports including tennis, swimming, horseback riding and of course soccer. She considers sports crucial to the well being of children and adults, and encourages military families to get their kids involved in any way they can.
“In soccer all you need is a ball, cleats, two nets and two teams going at it. Out team is a multicultural team. There are women here from all different economic backgrounds, and of different heritages. I get sad when I hear there are families out there that can’t afford sports. Sports are an amazing equalizer,” said Wilkinson.
According to Wilkinson, Canadian coach John Herdman reminds the team regularly that they wear the maple leaf on their jerseys to inspire a nation.
“We [the team] agree with him. We also know there are people out there in the stands who wear that same Canadian Flag on their uniforms to protect us,” said Wilkinson.
FIFA’s official website indicates while the Canadian team is currently atop Group A and New Zealand is at the opposite end after the first round of matches, it will still be a tight contest in Edmonton on Thursday. The Canadians relied on the heroics of Christine Sinclair in stoppage time to beat China PR, and New Zealand was only undone by one strike from Dutch player Lieke Martens.
Wilkinson, in her 13th year with the team would love maintain their perfect start to their World Cup campaign, in front of another near-capacity crowd at Commonwealth Stadium. Meanwhile, the Football Ferns are looking win in their 11th match on the global stage.
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