The Women's Game profiles some of the best playmakers and creators in the A-League Women's. Alex Chidiac used her limited time at Melbourne Victory to make a huge impact.
Alex Chidiac is one of Australia’s most cultured, creative and entertaining footballers. A true number 10 in the technical and tactical sense she can dribble past players in the middle of the pitch and deliver a defence splitting ball that strikers love.
When she was loaned from Japanese club JEF United Chiba to Melbourne Victory at the beginning of the A-League Women season, fans were thrilled. She was joining the reigning champions and a squad that included Kyra Cooney-Cross, Catherine Zimmerman along with Lynn Williams of the US national team.
For Victory fans, Chidiac represented a replacement for Lisa De Vanna. A creative force that can operate almost anywhere across an attack or in midfield. Although she was excited to join Victory, she took nothing for granted.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Chidiac told The Women’s Game.
“I knew I had to work for a spot in the team, it was quite a stacked team (with) lots of talent, and they won last season as well.
“I didn’t know what my role was going to be. It was just lucky that I knew quite a few of the players, they’ve made it really easy for me to slot in with the team.”
Her impact was almost instant, Victory never did get all of their stars on the pitch at once but Chidiac has proven a vital inclusion in a league where every point matters.
In the round two derby against her former club Melbourne City, she set up a crucial goal for Zimmerman to level the scores. After surging through midfield and brushing off a robust challenge, she delivered a perfect pass for unlock the defence.
That delicate footwork at full pace, mixed with physical strength and vision is what sets her apart and leads to constant calls for her to be returned to the national team. It is a skill she learned at an early age and has continued to hone ever since.
“I was quite young really,” she says of how she developed her style.
“I attended an academy back in Adelaide and I learned a lot of those skills there and I made sure I kept up with them wherever I was.
“(I do) a lot of individual training too. That’s always been part of my game and that’s something that I’ve always tried to keep working on.
“I know that is a little bit different its definitely what works in my favor as well.”
.@gracegill9 on Alex Chidiac: "I loved watching her play this afternoon, sheâ€™s hitting her (stride) at the moment."— KEEPUP (@keepupau) February 8, 2022
She is knocking on the door to get that first goal for @gomvfc as the â€˜absolute standoutâ€™ in an improving Victory side.
Read more: https://t.co/eApbm3DhhX pic.twitter.com/dbVSPIVdPO
"We Called it the Golden Generation"
The ability to control the ball in tight spaces and make quick decisions made her a prodigious futsal talent as a child. She represented South Australia in the small, sided game in a team that included current A-League Women stars Matilda Mcnamara and Emily Condon.
“We had a really good age group definitely at Adelaide,” she says of those glory days.
“We call it the golden generation in terms of the success we did have in futsal and NTC tournaments and state tournaments.
“We did really well, and a lot of these girls are still playing and doing really well at Adelaide United.
“I’m not sure what to put that down to exactly but it was just a great bunch of girls.”
You can see the influences of her favorite players as a child in her style. As a fan of the English Premier League she tried to replicate some of the best in the world at the time.
“There wasn’t a lot of women’s football on TV. I was a Chelsea supporter, Didier Drogba, it’s quite well known now that he was my favorite player. After that Juan Mata, and Eden Hazard.
“Especially Juan Mata, I loved his foot skills and tried to copy what he would do in the midfield.”
Out of her comfort zone
Chidiac own career would also take her to around the world. Stints with Athletico Madrid and JEF United Chiba in Japan’s fully professional W.E League.
While the competition for playing time has been tough. She says the challenges and experiences of playing in Europe and Asia have helped her develop as a player and person.
“Especially at Athletico, we had 13 different nationalities at one point s in the team so I’m learning lots from players as well as the coach, and it was pretty cool to see everyone come together and play one style when they were used to something different.
“Learning off the players in training definitely helped me a lot. Seeing what they did off the field as well really put me in a position to bring that back to Australia and know that I can push myself more because these players are doing it and playing week in week out.
“In Japan, there’s a lot of discipline that goes into training. We do the same things over and over again.
“There’s a lot of repetition and that had helped in terms of being a player in the midfield. Making sure you’re consistent and have consistent touches and your passes are perfect. These things have really added to my game.”
While nobody can doubt her ability to break down a defence, overcoming the language barrier is a more difficult task. She estimates that it took her over a year and a half to become comfortable communicating in Spanish and she is still adjusting to Japanese.
“It’s quite hard to adjust, it takes quite a lot of time…. That does add an extra difficult element. In that sense it does make you grow up and learn and adapt even quicker.
“It makes being back in Australia so nice when you know what’s going on, you don’t take that for granted, but I’d definitely say its quite a huge challenge.”
While Chidiac is still learning the language, she has immersed herself in the local culture. She has embarked on a mission to track down and photograph every local Mascot in the country.
Each club team has one, as do many cities. She is not sure where the desire originated, but is intent on following through.
“There is one that is proving quite impossible, that’s Chiitan, a very famous mascot that runs around Japan. So, I’m hoping to get Chiitan to as game but as mascots are they’re very busy.
“I don’t really know what started it, I’ve just always had an obsession. When I was finding out that in Japan they had a mascot for literally every single team that made me even more excited.
“There’s a page called Mondo mascots where you can see the most bizarre mascots.”
“I’m looking forward to heading back and being able to explore a little bit more when things open up.
“I think that’s one of the best things about football is going places that you never really thought you would be and being in a different element, living there and being around people day in day out.”
Although she will not finish the season with Melbourne Victory, her influence has been massive. She has consistently played 90 minutes with the exception of the match against The Newcastle Jets where she came off in the 87th.
Victory’s season has been challenging but they remain a strong chance to make the finals. Chidiac has enjoyed her time at the club. She credits the culture of the club and players that has helped them overcome COVID delays and missing players.
“We’re quite a tight knit group, that for sure helped. We’ve had quite a lot of squad depth too.
“We’ve had lots of players come in and out and being able to put in some really strong performances for us. That’s one of the positives of having a really good squad and a really good culture within too so I’d definitely put it down to that.”
She is due to return to Japan at the end of February, and Melbourne Victory fans will be sad to see her go, but not for the first time, Alex Chidiac has lit up the competition she first made her debut at the age of 15.
She is one of Australia’s most respected footballers and one of the A-League Women’s best playmakers.
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