Tahlia Blanshard: This is just the beginning

The CommBank ParaMatildas have celebrated Female Football Week in style, securing an emphatic 12-0 victory in their opening match of the IFCPF Women's World Cup.

Their debut international match saw the women in green and gold defeat the Netherlands, with Tahlia Blanshard making up one of the starting five.

Blanshard, from Jilliby in NSW spoke openly about how much football has enriched her life and given her a sense of belonging.

"Football is a massive part of my life. It's given me this community that I've never found anywhere else and it's really beautiful," the defender said.

"I remember my first 'come and try' day I knew maybe two people. I didn't have football boots or shin pads, but they took me in and hugged me, kicked me the ball and said 'It's time to play.' That was something that I had never experienced.

"I was so grateful for that experience and I believe it was truly the reason I pursued football.

"The community of football is just something so special. I love that I can play football with a local team but also achieve something as amazing as playing for the national team. It's the same game, but it's also so different. I really feel privileged to be a part of this football family," she continued.

"I love playing with a team and finding other people who have similar life experiences. It's just amazing to be able to relate to people on that sort of level, it has really changed my life.

The 21-year-old who was born with Cerebral Palsy, Erb's Palsy and a Cleft Palate admits that playing football was something she almost didn't consider pursuing, due to the lack of visibility and pathways.

Leaving a legacy to ensure disabled children are given the same opportunities is something Blanshard is passionate about.

MATCH REPORT: ParaMatildas kick off World Cup with emphatic first-ever win
HOW TO WATCH: ParaMatildas in the 2022 IFCPF Women's World Cup

"Growing up as a disabled person, football was something that I didn't originally see myself being able to have the opportunity to pursue," she said.

"I think that the biggest obstacle was the lack of pathways. I also found difficulty in feeling included, but I think things are changing and it's really beautiful to see.

"I want to be a part of a legacy, that means children who are growing up disabled, can watch us and know that football is an option for them. They can pursue their dreams of playing football, whether that be at a local level or representing their country."

As for what she's looking forward to for the future, Blanshard says the sky is the limit.

"I am honestly speechless at how excited I am for the future because I know that this is just the beginning. I know that what is going to happen over the next few years is going to be so incredible. The world is actually going to change," she exclaimed.

"And it won't just change for young people with a disability, this is about equal opportunities for everyone. This is about making sure that every single person feels included and accepted because feeling that sense of belonging is the most beautiful thing in the whole world."


Australia v Japan
Date: Friday, 13 May 2022
Venue: Futbol Salou Field 8
Kick-Off: 9.45am CEST / 5.45pm AEST

Australia v Spain
Date: Saturday, 14 May 2022
Venue: Futbol Salou Field 8
Kick-Off: 12.45pm CEST / 8.45pm AEST

Australia v United States of America
Date: Sunday, 15 May 2022
Venue: Futbol Salou Field 8
Kick-Off: 12.45pm CEST / 8.45pm AEST