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Rising star Kyah Simon’s six years in professional soccer have been nothing if not eventful. In 2011, the Matildas striker became the first ever Indigenous Australian player to score a World Cup goal. But disaster soon struck: 2013 saw Simon tearing a ligament in her knee in a friendly game against the US national team, sidelining her for the next year. But, as she tells us, Kyah Simon (the athlete, the role model, the footwear fanatic, the brand) is way too buoyant to be kept down.

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Kyah Simon wears Nike Sportswear Air Max 1 Women’s Sneakerboot.

Photography by Ben Clement.

What have you been doing to stay sane off the field?

Surprisingly, it hasn’t been as depressing as I thought it might be. As soon as the injury happened I was like, you know what, I’m not going to dig myself into the ground and feel sorry for myself throughout these 12 months – I’m just going to do the total opposite.

I think I just had a positive outlook on the situation. It’s given me the chance to spend quality time with my family and friends, which I almost feel like I’ve neglected ever since I went into that elite training environment.

I’m obviously missing that football aspect of it, and not training with a football team for the past eight or so months out of the last 10 has been a major difference. But I’ve still been doing my gym program and still been kind of feeling like an athlete, with a combination of work and study and just making sure that I’m still enjoying life – even when I’m missing that major part of it.

It’s nice to be incorporated back into that training in just the past month or two, and it’s good to get back on the field.

I hear that you were shooting with Nike in the US recently. What were you up to there?

That was for their Spring, January, February, March collection. That was a bit of fun. I don’t think I realised the enormity of the shoot that I was doing until I got there and they were saying that I would be on billboards and in shop windows and on digital all throughout the world. I don’t think it hit me until they told me that. I’m looking forward to it.

The fact that myself and five other younger athletes are going to be the face of Nike for a few months is a crazy thought. I still don’t believe it until I see it, come January 2015.

How do you describe your own personal style?

Maybe a little bit edgy – I was never really that plane Jane kind of girl. I always like to change things up and be a little alternative, but not too outrageous. I like to have more of an individual style rather than just following suit.

I like to change things up, like the number of times I’ve changed my hair colour. I always find something new to change my look or my style, and it’s a refreshing feeling.

Are you much of a sneakerhead?

I am a bit of a shoe fanatic – my room is probably more full of shoes than clothes.

What do you look for when you’re buying footwear?

I’d like to say comfort, but it’s all about the look for me. If I like a sneaker or a shoe when I see it I’m like ‘Well, I’m going to get it.’ And then, if I try it on and if it’s comfy, that’s a bonus. But if it looks sick then I’m all about it.

With sneakers, it doesn’t have to be do or die like it does on the football pitch. It’s more a chance to express myself and create my own personal brand and style off the field. I have my competitive head and also my chilled, relaxed persona off the field as well.

Tell us about the Kyah Simon brand.

I think it’s still very much forming at the moment. Obviously people know that I’m an Indigenous Australian footballer, and hopefully people can see that I’m a team player, but that I also have my own individual brand.

You’ve said in the past that your role model is Cathy Freeman. What is it about her that inspires you?

The 2000 Olympics resonates with me, because that was the first time that I saw her on the world stage, when she won the gold medal in the 400-metre race. Knowing that she was an Indigenous role model and a sportsperson made me want to excel in some kind of sport. I wasn’t sure at that stage what sport though.

I knew that if I believed in myself to get to that stage, then I could have that same effect on other little girls around the world. I’m still building on getting there, and it’s a stepping stone to get to where she is, but if I can have that same impact on someone else, then that’s another thing I’ll be proud of.

What are you next goals?

My next long-term goal is working towards the World Cup, although I obviously have a lot of short-term goals leading up to that.

I’m making sure that I’m getting some game minutes under my belt, but will then be really working back into my style of play and being as fit and agile and fast as I was, and making sure my touch is on point. Just making sure that everything is leading into that 2015 preparation for the World Cup. After that – qualifying for the Olympics for the following year.