CAITLIN FOORD...Picture courtesy of Illawarra Mercury
EXCLUSIVE: Rising star Caitlin Foord has knocked back a lucrative offer from a powerful Japanese club and is set to remain in Australia ahead of the Matildas camp later this month.
Foord, 17, was offered a 12-month deal with the powerful INAC Kobe Leonessa FC, a club that features seven of Japan’s 2011 Women's World Cup winning side.
However Foord’s management have told au.fourfourtwo.com that the Sydney FC star was better served staying in Australia and focusing on her sports scholarships at the AIS and NSWIS as well as her education.
The Japanese club – which won the double last season - are said to have made repeated offers for Foord.
Since bursting on the national team scene a year ago, Foord's won a swag of awards for a rare talent that has turned her into one of the hottest properties in women’s world football.
The Illawarra talent was voted Young Player of the Tournament at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup after some standout performances.
That was followed up by the Asian Football Confederation naming her their Youth Player of the Year for 2011.
Foord was also a nominee in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Sports Performer of the Year 2011 and walked off with the 2011 Sports Star of the Year in the Illawarra.
“It was a little overwhelming at first, especially with so much media attention," said Foord. "But as my mother keeps reminding me, it’s not about you, it’s about the sport.
"I feel equally proud to be enjoying the success for the Illawarra region where my football credentials were developed.
“My coach at Sydney FC, Alen Stajcic has also been a massive part of my development and I look forward to continuing my association with him during the winter season with NSWIS, while also looking forward to the upcoming Matildas camp in Wollongong.”
With her star on the rise, Foord has also signed a two-year sponsorship deal with Nike and has signed with a management company.
“Not only is she being recognised as one of the great emerging talents in the country, she's also one of the most marketable players in the women's game which itself is starting to attract more prominence on the national sporting landscape,” said her manager David O’Keefe.
Six months after crashing out of Olympic qualification the Matildas reunite for a training camp in Wollongong from March 22-25.
An exhibition game has been planned and there will be community training sessions and promotions as the Matildas look to maintain their brand’s growing popularity.
The camp is partly to recognise the popularity of Foord in the region as well as the Illawarra’s push for a W-League side.
Meanwhile, ex-Matildas legend Joey Peters has called for a winter W-League to be set up.
She said it would help boost the national team, which was dealt a massive blow by failing to qualify for London 2012.
Peters, an assistant coach with W-League side Newcastle Jets and holder of an AFC 'B'-Coaching Licence, told au.fourourtwo.com that with so few Matildas games planned for 2012, the game could go backwards if steps weren’t taken to keep up with the rest of the world.
“The game [worldwide] is moving so quickly," said the former Santos player who retired from the Matildas in 2009 after notching up over 100 appearances for the Green and Gold.
"USA, Japan, and other nations are moving ahead. As soon as we don’t have any games we’re automatically falling behind the world. It concerns me.
“We need something consistent at club level through the winter. The W-League is only around 12 weeks in summer.”
Peters, who is set to take her ‘A’ licence alongside Melissa Barbieri in the coming months, said the potential for the game was huge but there needs to be a way to find more games at the elite level.
She added: “The W-League has had a huge benefit so perhaps a scaled down version of that in winter just to help keep us improving.”
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