Katie Rood - New Zealand
My name is Katie Rood, I come from New Zealand and currently play for Lewes FC in the FA Women’s Championship in England. I started playing football when I was about 8 years old and from a very young age I wanted to represent New Zealand at the World Cup or Olympic Games. My whole life was aimed towards making this goal but when I turned 24 and still hadn’t earned a cap for the Football Ferns I had to decide if football really was my thing.
It was then that I realised I could still be a professional without representing New Zealand and so I committed myself to doing that. A few months later I had quit my full-time job, packed up my life and was heading to Italy to play for Juventus. It’s hard to describe the impact playing for Juventus had on me. It was a roller-coaster ride of culture, challenges, learning and self-discovery. After an incredible 11 months with Juventus I signed to Bristol City in the FA Women’s Super League in England and from there came on loan to Lewes FC.
Since signing for Juventus I have had 10 caps for New Zealand from which I’ve scored 5 goals. I’ve travelled to weird and wonderful places and met incredibly inspiring people along the way. I didn’t make the World Cup team this year and it’s still really raw having finally made some progress and getting so close. I know I still have a long way to go in my football journey though, and I’m excited to see where it leads.
Who is in the photos? Where were the photos taken?
The photos capture both the Football Ferns at our World Cup Preparation Camp in Malaga, Spain, and then the crowd and atmosphere at Lewes FC Women’s final home match of the season at The Dripping Pan.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with any of the photos?
The Ferns photos capture the spirit of the team quite well. It’s not too often the team gets to be together and so we make the most of it with good vibes and hard work! The photos from The Dripping Pan capture the unique atmosphere of the ground. The Pan feels quite unlike anywhere else I’ve ever played, you’ll see in the pictures that there is both a punk drum band and an all-female choir that each play their part in creating a really unique vibe.
What is your favourite photo? Why?
I like the photo of the players getting their boots on, ready for training. You can almost feel how relaxed and friendly the vibe is. But when we get on the pitch it’s business time. I dig that.
Are there any good stories connected with the people you photographed?
Moments after I took the photo of the players and coach passing the ball around, Rosie (the closest player) actually hits Owain (the coach) pretty much in the face! Impressive considering how close she is to him! That’s what I think about when seeing that photo - it cracks me up. I do recommend following Football Ferns and Lewes FC players on social media to get a better glimpse into the lives of professional and semi-professional players from across the globe.
What are the biggest changes happening at the moment in women's football?
It’s becoming more professional in that now there is a wider scope of players that can play for a living and not have to work a day job to be able to play. However, this is still just a small amount of players in the top leagues and has a long way to go. There seems to be a pretty big hype around women’s football at the moment and I think the World Cup is obviously playing its part in that. It’s fantastic that young girls are now able to see and even follow or meet the players they look up to. Hopefully the media can see how positive that influence is on society and continue to share the stories of these strong and tenacious female role models.
What does football mean to you? Do you have a message for the next generation of young female footballers?
Football for me is a sense of challenge and freedom. The challenge comes on the pitch, from working with my teammates to unlock the opposition, break them down, and trying to get the ball in the back of the net. There’s so much joy to be had in doing that and celebrating as a team when it comes off.
The sense of freedom comes from being grateful for the ability I have to move my body in the way that I want. Through playing football I have travelled all across the world and experienced life on a deeper level than I think I ever could have without it. Others aren’t so fortunate. There have been times (and still are in some countries) where people like me have not been afforded the opportunity to play. I can’t for a moment imagine a world where I couldn’t play football. Generations of women sacrificed and fought so hard to get football to where it is now and I feel as though it is my duty to continue that battle for the future generations, I hope others can understand how much further there is for us to go and not to take current opportunities for granted.
What are the opportunities for female footballers in New Zealand?
Opportunities are growing but unfortunately are still quite limited. Many players are still expected to move at a young age to a region where the football is more centralised. This can be a big strain on players and families at such a young age. Often players are looking to combine academics and football with a scholarship to the States. It’s also becoming common to play in a State League in Australia. The only certainty is that you can’t be a professional footballer in New Zealand and programs are starting to be developed to help players reach that next step when they’ve maxed-out the New Zealand system.
What is the future for New Zealand women's football?
The game has been steadily growing and has had a few incredible moments that have sparked a lot of excitement throughout the country. The U17 women’s team winning bronze at the U17 World Cup was huge for us. I think the country isn’t yet fully captivated by football but I think the Football Ferns have the capability to change that by making history on the pitch. Hopefully one day New Zealand will have a professional league of its own but at this stage there is a long way to go before that can happen.
What do you expect to change after the 2019 WWC?
I expect for people to value females as athletes and footballers a lot more after seeing what we are really capable of on the pitch. I hope this will lead to more investment and opportunities for those in the game at every level. I expect there will be a greater desire to follow women’s football. I really hope the federations and media take every opportunity they get to share the stories and voices of the women’s football community so that the hype doesn’t just fizzle out and we can continue to use our talents to encourage and inspire people across the globe.