Shipard loving life in Europe

Following some early drama around an alleged contract in Spain and the delay of her Westfield W-League debut by almost 18 months, Sally Shipard has found her feet in domestic football.

Following some early drama around an alleged contract in Spain and the delay of her Westfield W-League debut by almost 18 months, Sally Shipard has found her feet in domestic football.

While her contribution to the Westfield Matildas cannot be denied following some incredible milestones including representing Australia at the 2004 Athens Olympics as a 16-year-old and at the 2007 and 2011 FIFA Women-s World Cups, Shipard is now in Germany playing for Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the German Bundesliga and loving life as a professional footballer.

We stopped by with Sal to get her take on life in Germany, her new teammates and her love of Europe and why she still calls Australia home.

How are you settling into life in Leverkusen?
To be honest, just as I feel as though I-m settling, I find myself packing up my belongings. The past four months have been busy, yet welcomed. Katie (Bethke, my US teammate) and I have been very well looked after.

This certainly provided comfort during the first couple of weeks. The language barrier has been very difficult, our diligence in learning the Deustch would not impress many.

Everybody speaks English which makes for easy conversation and provides us native English speakers quite a good excuse. If a long-term stint was to be had, learning the language would be a definite. It is such a frustrating barrier, especially as a central midfielder.

Thank goodness football is universal and body language tells you a great deal. Certain words for the games have been acquired however just as an example the way my R-s are pronounced, my Deutsch requires some undivided attention…

What-s the most interesting thing you-ve seen so far?
Gosh, narrowing this down. Well, I live on a walnut farm. The most magical thing I have seen, is this place springing to life.

I arrived following a gorgeous Australian summer, then to be greeted by -15 degree weather. Everything was so lifeless, however the snow was mystical. As the days went by, the landscape sprung to life.

I have been taking many photos during my time here. Just the sheer beauty of nature. I have never witnessed such a contrast. Colour has wonderful effects, as does the sun. Hello European summer! Sorry Australia, I hope you aren-t too cold.

Speaking of cold…Back in February we were unable to train outside, the pitches were frozen. The first session, I could not feel my feet.

Obviously this proved problematic, especially when you want to make a good impression. Dealing with the nerves and anxiety alone wasn-t enough, my body decided to go numb too.

Proving myself in the eyes of my own teammates has been a challenge, hard, but overly rewarding.

Having not played “pro” before, I had never experienced coming in to an environment like this, carrying the expectations of a national team player.

I was intent on letting go of these expectations as best I could, however, forever in the back of one-s mind. It has been really interesting for me to reflect upon the evolving friendships formed with my teammates. Both on-and-off the pitch.

How are your teammates?
The fact I feel just about settled, is mainly influenced by the girls. We have all gotten to know each other, we have moved from the awkward stage (such an interesting phase and test of your character) to now being friends.

It was strange initially, no one really approached Katie and I to speak. Even though they all speak relatively sound English, they were too shy. As the protective walls were chipped away, they all speak quite freely.

A lot of their English has been learnt through song. I swear everything we say, they can instantly refer to the lyrics of a tune. Efficient way to learn it seems. Mental note.

The team is young, a handful of the girls play in the U20-s German national team side. Always having a laugh, but take their football seriously. I enjoy being surrounded by young uns, reminds me of Sam Kerr, the old lesson of “don-t take life too seriously”.

How has the season been going, what have been the highlights so far?
Well, after the first three matches of the second half of the season we had earned more points than the team had earned in its first half. Katie and myself had been signed mid-way through the season.

Any stand out players in your team who we should know about? Johanna Elsig, she will play for Germany soon. As an athlete, her attitude towards winning is incredible. She would be any coaches dream. As for her potential, this will take care of itself…

Best thing about being in Germany?
The recycling and nature. The professional element to the football has been great too. I am about to embark on a few weeks of travel.

The history, culture and landscapes will be welcomed. Friends and family will be visited. I love that everything is so close. I love many aspects of Europe. Mainly the culture and how liberal people are.

How does this stay in Germany compare to your last, being the World Cup?
Nothing compares to immersing yourself in a foreign country, experiencing the culture, language and people. And nothing compares to representing your country with some of the best mates you will ever meet, therefore I am not prepared to make the comparison.

What do you miss most about Australia?
Family and friends. I-ll soon be visited by my parents. In fact I am picking them up from the train station now!

While it-s amazing to have the experience of living and playing overseas Australia to me is the greatest country in the world and I look forward to getting back for some rest and getting back into the national team environment.