Japan's first women's professional soccer league, the WE League, kicked off last Sunday. Next Monday will be the debut of Australia's only player currently contracted in the League, Alex Chidiac.
At 22, most people are only starting their career. For Alex Chidiac though, she is about to begin her eighth year of professional football.
The midfielder first made her W-League debut in 2014-15 for Adelaide United. She featured in three more Australian campaigns, including one for Melbourne City, before making the brave decision to venture abroad.
Her first year with Liga Iberdrola side Atlético Madrid was quite a success, with her featuring 20 times for the Spanish side. Injury then curtailed her playing time for the next season and a half, with Chidiac choosing to return to Australia and play in the W-League last year.
A successful season with Melbourne City, which saw her find the back of the net three times, also saw her return to the form that resulted in her making her debut for the Matildas aged 18.
With these performances, Chidiac chose to once again be brave and sign for Japanese side JEF United Ichihara Chiba. At present she is the only Australian contracted to a Japanese women's side.
The team will play in the newly created WE League, WE standing for Women's Empowerment. While professional women's players have existed in the past in Japan, this will be the first season that all eleven teams of the top flight must have a specific amount of players signed full-time.
With a broadcasting deal from DAZN, a significant advertising budget and specific training standards, it is expected to be the most competitive season for women's football in Japan.
The league started play last weekend, with all teams but JEF United playing. Due to the odd number of teams in the league they had a bye-week. This means that Chidiac and JEF United will play their first WE match next Monday at 16:00 AEST.
Chidiac will be hoping to cement her spot in the team and improve on her competitive form to return to the Matildas fold. While she has been called up during the Tony Gustavsson era, Chidiac only featured on the bench during the June friendly against Sweden.
She was not called up for the latest friendly against the Republic of Ireland. While no reason was given, this is most likely due to COVID-19 restrictions and the fact that the timing overlaps with her new club's WE debut.
The Japanese top flight season will continue until the 21st of May 2022, resulting in Chidiac being unavailable for the upcoming W-League season. Each team will play 20 matches, a home-and-away against all other teams.
At the end of the season the top team will win the WE League trophy. It was created from the reshaped shards of a "glass ceiling" broken by legends of the Japanese women's game.