It’s been a long time coming for Matildas’ veteran Aivi Luik.
Luik, at 34-years-old, was amongst the names announced by Head Coach as Ante Milicic that would be headed for France ’19 last week; marking the first time the veteran had ever secured a place in a squad heading to football’s biggest event.
Graduating from the University of Nevada in 2006, Luik has had stops with club sides in the United States, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, England, Norway, Sweden, Australia and Spain in her long career; currently plying her trade with Spanish side Levante.
Nonetheless, despite making numerous appearances for the Matildas over the course of her career, a place at a World Cup had eluded Luik.
Though a member of Australia’s 2018 Asian Cup squad and firmly establishing herself as still in contention after securing a place in Milicic’s first squad at the recently held FFA Cup of Nations, Luik admitted that, after so many disappointments, she hadn’t approached last week’s squad announcement with any sense of expectancy.
“I hadn’t lost all hope,” Luik explained in a call with journalists.
“Because otherwise I wouldn’t still be playing.
“But after the first two World Cup disappointments I just let things come. I still worked hard, I still wanted it, but I just took every day as it came.
“So, for me, the Asia Cup was a blessing, and every other thing since then has been a blessing, and then to get the call up was absolutely incredible.
“I’ve wanted this since I was nine years old and I watched my first men’s World Cup, and also the last two bids before this. So, it’s been about ten years that I’ve been wanting this and working towards this.
“In 2011, Tom Sermanni was the head coach… it was the first heartbreak which is the hardest, especially when you are younger.
“I had everything riding on it, I thought I was doing well, and then to hear the words that I wasn’t in was just a real blow. For the next few weeks after it was really hard… to the point where it just made it super difficult and emotional to watch it on TV.
“Shortly after I got back on track, training again, looking forward to the next chance of making the World Cup.
“I was feeling good, working hard, and then the second blow really crushed me again. That was under Staj (Alen Stajcic).
“This time around I don’t know if he (Ante Milicic) sees what the other two don’t see, but I am just so happy to be part of it.”
With such a long, winding road to the World Cup its no surprise that Luik’s berth has been welcomed by her teammates.
A cool, calm and collected figure on the field, the popular Luik is also widely respected of it by those in the footballing fraternity.
“I think as athletes they can see how good that feels, that the hard work has paid off and they appreciate that,” Luik said when asked the esteem she was held in.
“But they are all really great people and we have each other’s backs, and I think that speaks about the spirit of the team. Hopefully, they do see certain characteristics in me that are deserving of the spot.”
Spending a number of years in Brisbane during her playing career, winning a W-League Championship with Roar in 2010-11, Luik is also a keen surfer.
It’s a habit that has served to bring her closer to a number of her World Cup teammates., particularly her good friend and now roommate Laura Alleway.
“To see Loz’s (Laura Alleyway) emotion, the way she felt, and what I heard of how she reacted when I was in the squad, it just goes to show how much of a good friend she is to me. I am rooming with her now and it’s going great.
“We’ve been surfing buddies for years.
“I think it brings you closer together because when you are out there in the ocean it clears your mind of everything.
“You are in the moment; all you are thinking about is the next wave and having fun.
“When you are on that wave surfing, if I’m paddling out and I see Loz catch a great wave, or maybe she does a really good trick or something, it puts the biggest smile on your face.
“You just have so much joy and happiness for each other and
it brings you closer.”