World Cup winner’s emotional tribute to Australia and the A-Leagues: ‘I got a second chance’

Four years ago, Jessica McDonald stood on the turf of Parc Olympique Lyonnais in France, and posed for photos with her son Jeremiah.

Jeremiah held the Women’s World Cup trophy aloft as his mum, a United States international, knelt next to him in front of a shower of confetti with a winner’s medal draped around her neck.

McDonald’s first pregnancy in 2012 followed an enforced break from football caused by a ruptured patella tendon; and at the time of her son’s birth, she would never have believed those scenes in Lyon would play out in her career.

That was until Liberty A-League club Melbourne Victory gave her a lifeline.

In 2023 McDonald is providing expert analysis on Optus Sport’s coverage of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Now retired as an international footballer, the 38-year-old spent the last A-League Women season at expansion club Western United; it was her second stint Down Under after the 2012-13 campaign in which she helped Victory reach the Grand Final of the then-W-League.

In an emotional discussion on Optus Sport, McDonald detailed how that initial spell in the A-Leagues, coupled with her season at Western and her media duties at the World Cup have all helped shape her life journey significantly – with that initial move to Victory 11 years ago proving a genuine career-saver. 

“I guess I’ll get a little personal… this is a story I haven’t told many people,” McDonald said.

“Thirteen years ago, I fully ruptured my patella tendon. I was told I had no chance of ever playing football ever again. In the middle of that recovery, I find out I’m pregnant with my son. So there I am, two years (of) recovery from two major things in my life, physically, and all I ever wanted to do was play football – and that was taken away from me for two years. 

“I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, but when I recovered from having my son and knee surgery as well, I got a second chance at playing football again – and this country gave that to me. Playing in the W-League for Melbourne Victory. 

“This country has given me so many opportunities: here I am, working for Optus Sport in the media at the Women’s World Cup. I played for Western United in their inaugural season. 

“This country has helped change my life. I’ve been able to have a second chance.

“I played professional football again – and if there’s any team who is in this tournament still that is not the USA, obviously I have to root for the Matildas, because I feel like an adopted Australian.”

“At the end of the day, this is really me showing my appreciation for this country, because I wouldn’t be a World Cup champion, I wouldn’t be a three-time National Women’s Soccer League champion, my journey as a footballer would not have gone the way that it has without my second chance at playing again, because of this country.

“So my love for this country is next level than what I open up to people. Last World Cup I got to win it with Tony G (then assistant at United States and now head coach of the Matildas) – so I have to go with the Matildas (at the 2023 World Cup).”

The Matildas take on England in a World Cup semi-final on Wednesday, August 16 for a spot in the decider against Spain.

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UNDER 16? GO FREE! Liberty A-League Pass is back for 2023-24: Under-16s go FREE to A-League Women!