One of the Matildas' earliest overseas trailblazers, Aivi Luik, signed abroad again last year with Spanish giants Sevilla.
She had previously competed in nine different countries, Australia, Canada, Ukraine, England, Sweden, Norway, Denmark & Iceland, and for the second time Luik chose the Spanish league to play her top flight football.
Luik signed with Liga Iberdrola side Sevilla and headed to the south of Spain. She claims the choice to have been an easy one.
Having previously played for one of Sevilla’s opponent’s Levante, Luik knew the quality of both the club and the league.
Her season with Sevilla has not been without challenges. A number of defensive injuries in the squad resulted in the defensive midfielder being temporarily converted into a centre-back.
While it is a position she has shown capable to play, her reduced communication abilities in Spanish have resulted in some obstacles.
These are obstacles Luik has strived to overcome. Moreover, as a member of the Professional Footballer’s Association, she has had access to education grants to help with Spanish lessons.
Speaking to matildas.com.au in January she stated:
“That's been the hardest thing and the biggest obstacle that I've had to and am continuing to try to overcome. I’m getting better at it week by week, the more Spanish that I learn, but it definitely makes it difficult.”
“A lot of your success in the backline relies on communication and really quick decision making. And the thing is, when you're in the backline, if you make the wrong decision, or if you're a split second off, that could be the difference between a goal and not.”
“But in saying that, learning to or continuing to learn to deal with it, you have to be very, very patient, that's for sure. I've definitely learnt to be more patient."
The language barrier proved not to interfere with her club’s match selection though. In total Luik played 31 matches in all competitions this past year for Sevilla, and recorded a total of 2652 minutes for the club
She was an integral part of the Sevillian side that fought to an eight place finish, a marked improvement to the bottom half table results the club has had in its last few seasons.
Any passive observer of La Liga would know that Sevilla did not get their hands on a trophy this year. Barcelona basically won everything, including the Champions League.
However, the team did have some notable wins, including home and away derby victories against cross-town rivals Real Betis. Both games fielded Luik in the back line.
The past season’s experience resulted in Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson using Luik’s new defensive versatility in Australia matches this year, playing her as a centre back instead of her usual six role for the Matildas.
This versatility, combined with her fearlessness in exposing herself to new football learning environments and a ridged work ethic, demonstrate why Luik is still a footballer in her prime.
Three months ago she was named Matildas’ Player of the Match for the Australia v Netherlands game and showed a stamina which some players half her age would strive to achieve.
She accomplished this at 36 years of age. This makes her the oldest Matilda to play for Australia.