It has been a busy 24 hours for former Matildas star Aivi Luik. Not only did she announce her retirement from international play, but also the beginning of a new chapter with Serie A side Pomigliano.
Football is often described as a young person's game. It was therefore amazing that one of the Olympic debutantes in Tokyo 2020 was also the oldest Matilda ever, Aivi Luik. At 36, she was double the age of the youngest Australian debutante Mary Fowler.
Luik's road to her "lifelong dream" was not an easy one. Due to the lack of playing opportunities in Australia after high school, Luik went to the US to continue her footballing career. She started at Brescia University in Kentucky before transferring to the University of Nevada.
It was Luik's penalty kick that ensured Nevada's women's soccer teams first and only appearance in the NCAA tournament. After her time in the American collegiate system Luik then went on a journey-women's career that would make her one of the best traveled Australian footballers ever.
She started by playing for USL W-League sides FC Indiana and the Ottawa Fury in the US and Canada. She also played for Neftokhimik in Ukraine, the Perth Glory, Brisbane Roar & Melbourne City in Australia, Brøndby in Denmark, Fylkir in Iceland, Notts County in England, Vålerenga and Avaldsnes in Norway, IFK Kalmar in Sweden and Levante and Sevilla in Spain.
Luik first made her international debut in 2010. Despite her continuous club play her call up did not lead to a regular spot in the Matildas. She did not make the squads for the World Cups in 2011 and 2015, or the 2016 Olympics.
However, despite the heartbreak, she continued to work hard and remain tenacious in the pursuit of her dreams. Luik was finally able to realize them in recent years at an age most would have given up on them.
Her World Cup debut came in 2019 after nine years of play with Australia and 21 caps. She was then, as she was in the latest Olympics, the oldest debutante. The only older player was Lisa De Vanna.
Achieving this milestone did not stop Luik. She continued chasing her Olympic dream, completing it this year. She made one appearance in the tournament. In total Luik amassed 30 Matildas caps.
When announcing her retirement on Instagram, Luik thanked all those who supported her "in any way, big or small." She also thanked her parents who allowed her to follow her dream.
Luik's playing days are not over though. Despite her age she is one of the fittest players around. She featured in 31 matches last year for Sevilla, recording a total of 2652 minutes of play.
She will be continuing her club career in the Italian Serie A this year. Luik signed with Pomigliano Calico Femminile this past week. Her first match will be against last year's Serie A winners Juventus on August 28, 2021.
The journey-women's route continues.