Sam Kerr. What’s not to be said about the global footballing superstar? At just 28 years of age, the Chelsea striker has cemented her mark in England scoring countless goals to earn her back-to-back golden boots, winning back-to-back premier league titles, as well as winning the women’s FA Cup title this past season, too.
Last year, Kerr became Australia’s all-time top goal scorer, making over 110 appearances for Australia since 2009, she just made history as the last ever cover athlete for a FIFA video game (and the first female athlete to do so) and now, she’s the face of Nike’s new Air Zoom Mercurial Boot, a global campaign which sits her alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappé and Ada Hegerberg.
Ahead of the launch of the Nike Air Zoom Mercurial campaign, ICON caught up with Kerr at the Nike Australia HQ to discuss her accumulating accolades, her mark on Australian football and how she’s shaping the footballing landscape for generations of young female (and male) footballers to come.
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One ultimate strike partnership.
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ICON: Hi Sam, welcome back to Australia! You’ve had a stellar season of football, sealing back-to-back WSL titles and golden boots with Chelsea F.C as well as F.A. Cup title this year, the list goes on. Reflecting on the past season, can you describe the feeling of these achievements? Has it sunk in at all for you?
Sam Kerr: I think relief is just the biggest thing for me right now. You work so hard for all of these things all year and it came down to the last day or last two weekends for us [Chelsea] this season, so the first feeling I had was just relief once we won the league, and then when we won the F.A Cup, it was like ‘oh my god, we did it’! It’s back to work now, though. I want to win the next thing and get ready to go again!
ICON: The league starts in September, which is fast approaching. How’s your preparation been?
SK: I’ve had a longer break than most people because most girls were at the EUROs but I needed it after last season, so I’ve been working my way up over the last couple of weeks, training and that type of stuff. We start on the 25th [September], so I’ll probably gear up from there.
ICON: You’re undoubtedly a big game player, Sam. What’s the feeling you get from scoring a goal in front of thousands of spectators, in particular a match-winning goal that you’re so accustomed to producing?
SK: To be honest, that’s what I play for. I always say, my coach doesn’t pay me to score in a seven-nil result. She pays me to score in the 90th minute when it counts. But that’s what I love to do; I love scoring.
People always ask me whether I feel the pressure, but wouldn’t say I feel the pressure – I see it as fun. I see it as a challenge. I love those moments. I love the feeling of being able to do something great and have everyone on the edge of their seats. I think some people shy away from it, but I’m either go hard or go home, all the time, so I would rather lose big than kind of fall over the line. I love it!
ICON: Do you remember the moment that changed everything for you? The moment you went from local football talent to global superstar?
SK: I don’t think there was a specific moment. I think it’s been gradually over time. It’s been a really enjoyable ride. I think every year, something happens where you have to pinch yourself. Most of that is off-field, though. On the field, I’m the same person and the same player. I think I have improved a lot being in England, but I think I see myself as the same person as I was five or six years ago. Maybe at the end of my career.
ICON: How does it feel to be playing a pretty significant role in putting football on the map here in Australia, especially for young girls? Do you consider yourself a role model for younger girls in Australia, and in turn, see yourself redefining the future of sport for women?
SK: Yeah, I definitely see myself as a role model. I know, just from experience and meeting young fans, that they see me as a role model, and that’s something I’ve had to get used to. At the start, I just wanted to be me and I didn’t really see myself as that role model figure. But now, I take pride in that and I love it.
The fact that I can play a role in the way in which women’s sport and women’s football is seen is pretty cool, and I think so many people did so much before me but now, we’re pushing the boundaries even further. So it’s really cool to be a part of. There’s still a lot more work to do in this space, but this time is where we have seen the biggest change. I don’t think we’ll see this much change in women’s football ever again because we’ve kind of broken down that big barrier, and now there are small little wins we need to achieve along the way.
ICON: What do you want the next Sam Kerr or just the next generation of female footballers to take away from your personal journey and experience, Sam?
SK: I think everyone has a different journey but for me, I’ve done it my way and I’ve done it in the way I’ve wanted to. And that’s what has made it so enjoyable for me and I think that’s why people connect with me a lot because I’ve always stayed true to who I am, no matter what’s going on. It sounds cliche but where there’s a will there’s a way, and I hope people can take away from my experience that they don’t have to fit into a certain box to make it; they can be themselves and make it and that be OK.
ICON: You’re the global face of the new Nike Air Zoom Mercurial boot, alongside some pretty impressive footballing names. What has it been like being a part of such a global campaign?
SK: It’s been epic! The boot itself is amazing, so obviously any time there’s a nice boot coming out, I’m wanting to get my hands on a pair. Everyone is always telling me that I have the coolest boots, that’s because I’m a part of these cool campaigns that everyone sees globally. Hopefully, I can score a couple of goals in them because they look pretty snazzy.
ICON: Through the highs and lows of being a professional athlete and being under the spotlight constantly, how do you best cope with the mental – and physical – pressures that come your way?
SK: Similar to what I mentioned before, I find that it’s just about being myself and accepting that I’m going to have my good days and I’m going to have my bad days – there is a lot of pressure to perform and be this person that people see as a superhuman, but somedays you just have to accept the down days. Nine out of ten, I have good days but sometimes I’ll rock up to training and I’m not feeling it or I don’t feel like being an athlete or smiling for ten million photos. So, I think it’s just about being true to who you are; fans and coaches and all that understand that.
I think the last two years through COVID have taught me that it’s ok to be down and to have a bad day and to lean on people for help. It’s been a difficult time but I’ve found a lot of growth, especially in these last two years.
ICON: The football season can be pretty gruelling, especially throughout a European winter. What do you do away from football to unwind and relax?
SK: I love to turn my phone off and not reply to emails or texts [laughs]. When you’re an athlete and you have so many people pulling you in so many different directions, sometimes you just want your own time and for everyone to leave you alone; to do what I want to do, like just go to coffee and catch up with friends. I get told a lot of the time what to do, which helps in a sense of structure, but just do what I want to do and get away from it all is how I unwind.
ICON: What can we expect from Sam Kerr come next season? And with the looming 2023 World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand, do any personal goals you’d like to achieve?
SK: I want to win the golden boot again. I want to win the league again. I’m stating the obvious, but for me, it’s also about building towards the World Cup and getting to the tournament in the form of my life. Once I get into the season, I just have the mentality of getting better every day. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied as an athlete. But at the end of the day, I just want to keep working on who I am as a player, who I am as a person and get better in every aspect. And of course, win lots of trophies and score lots of goals.