Meet the Harvard-trained woman who turned down a lucrative company job to be Everton ’keeper

By Daily Sports on March 6, 2018

Views: 1,124

Intellectual footballers are considered a rarity. As teams scoop primary school-age talent into their glistening academies, the lives of young players become consumed with football and education often becomes secondary at best – despite the low chances of ‘making it’.

Yet in the women’s game it is different. Because professionalism is relatively new, most of those playing football at the top level today have had to have a plan B from the off.

However, as in the men’s game, there are a few who do not regard education as a back-up or side project but as an integral – if not equal – partner to their football.

So when Australian-born Lizzie Durack finished college and had to choose which path to focus on, she sought to do both. Now a professional footballer in England’s top tier with Everton, she majored in economics and minored in neurobiology at Harvard University before turning down a job at Goldman Sachs to head for Merseyside.

“I’ve always valued my education pretty highly,” she says. “In Australia, like how it is here, you have to choose whether you want to play high-level sport or want to do a really good uni degree and I didn’t want to choose. I had friends in the States on sports scholarships, so I looked into that and I ended up, in a hopeful but unrealistic way, emailing some Ivy League coaches – Harvard, Yale, Princeton – and Harvard were really interested. I sent over a video of me playing and they recruited me.”

The goalkeeper’s football story has not been an easy one but she has exhibited a never-say-die attitude that has mirrored her academic drive. She played in her school’s all-boys team before being spotted by the coach of a local girls’ club and spent time with the Australia Under-16 and under-17 sides, including going to the Asian Cup, before falling out of favour with the international set-up.

“At the time they told me they didn’t think I was good enough. As a 16-year-old I thought that was a bit harsh but that’s how football goes sometimes – it’s a subjective sport. I can look back on it now and calmly talk about it but it’s a very tough thing to deal with.

“And I didn’t quite give up on Australia immediately. I played for another three years in Australia, played for the Western Sydney Wanderers in the W-League and then I actually called up the under-20s Australia coach and was like: ‘Any chance of me getting in any of these squads?’ And it was still a no.”

However, that did not kill off Durack’s international career. England coaches were on the hunt for players and emailed US universities asking if they knew of female goalkeepers who would be eligible. Durack, born in Australia to an English mother, was put forward by Harvard. And, with eight months to kill before she headed to the States, she flew to the UK to join an England Under-19s camp. “I spent a week in camp and they asked me to stay in the UK.

“They said Everton were looking for a goalkeeper. Rachel Brown-Finnis was there and I would have been playing and training with Brownie, so I went to Liverpool for the next six to seven months. Unfortunately for Brownie, but fortunately for me, she got injured and I ended up playing most of the league that year and got myself into the England Under-19s squad.”

Then she left for Harvard. “The American style of play is a lot more direct and a lot more physical over technical and tactical. I would say it’s not WSL1 level but it would be competitive at WSL2 level. It was the most fun environment I’ve ever played in.

The Americans get so competitive and enthusiastic about everything. In the Ivy League you have got to come top of the table to make it through to the national championship play-offs, so you’ve got to play every game as though it’s a must-win.”

Once her four years at Harvard were done, Durack had eyes only for coming back to the WSL. However, the Everton the 23-year-old has rejoined are very different from the one she left. “When I was playing there before I was on hardly anything – I can’t even remember being paid to be honest – and now the whole team are on professional contracts. We’re training fully at Finch Farm and all the infrastructure is there for us to be professional athletes. There’s still a long way to go but it’s fantastic to see how far it’s come.”

Everton are starting to find their feet in the top flight. This year they have lost narrowly to Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal (1-0, 3-2 and 1-0, respectively), chalked up a good win against Reading and are progressing in the FA Cup. There is a confidence that suggests taking points off a big team will not be far away.

Durack is studying for level one of the chartered financial analyst programme – part-sponsored by the PFA’s educational programme; the PFA represents her – and watching her boyfriend, who does the job she turned down, gives her an insight into the life she has delayed. “I sometimes miss the intellectual stimulation of what he’s doing but at the same time his hours are pretty gruelling and he’s not playing football every day. That’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing. It wouldn’t have been fair to my younger self to give that up just for the gratification of getting a bit more money.”

•Sourced from The UK Guardian. Photo shows goalie Lizzie Durack.

Source Daily Sports

Posted March 6, 2018

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