Mary Fowler exclusively tells Sky Sports about her ‘cringe’ meeting with Brazil superstar Marta, making Matildas debut at 15 and what it would mean to play at a home World Cup; watch Man City vs Aston Villa live on Sky Sports on Saturday from 10.30am; kick-off 11:30am
Saturday 21 January 2023 11:11, UK
Manchester City and Australia forward Mary Fowler is only 19 years old but has already achieved so much.
At 15, she became the fifth-youngest player to make their Australia debut against Brazil in a 3-1 win for the Matildas. She came up against her idol, Marta, the six-time FIFA World Player of the Year.
Fowler tells Sky Sports she hadn’t been starstruck up until that point but still managed to pluck up the courage to say hello to her hero.
“It was a bit cringe,” she says, “I just told her she was the best.
“When I was with her, it was weird because I was like, ‘I only watch you on YouTube and now you’re here in person’. People don’t know what impact they’ve had on your journey and how much they’ve meant in your journey.
“So it was like such a weird feeling to just be looking at her and being like, ‘I’ve just been on the same field as you and now I can search up a YouTube video and we can both be in it’.
“How I wanted to play as a footballer is very much like her, I wanted to give off that same feeling to other people if they watch me that it’s a very creative person who can just get out of situations that you wouldn’t expect them to.”
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Not long after her international debut, Fowler was included in the Australia squad that travelled to France for the 2019 World Cup. Although she didn’t manage to get on the pitch then at 16, just being that close to the action lit a fire in her belly.
“To be able to even watch the best women’s players in the world competing against each other was very inspiring,” Fowler says ahead of City’s WSL match against Aston Villa on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.
“You’re so close to where you want to be, but you haven’t got there yet. So I think it motivated me to keep going because I wanted to reach that point.”
The 19-year-old, who signed for Man City from Montpellier in the summer, could now make her World Cup debut on home soil with this summer’s tournament being held in Australia and New Zealand.
“The World Cup is in the forefront of my mind and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot,” she says.
“You know, just be able to play at home in front of a home crowd to have my family and long-time friends that I’ve known since I first kicked a ball. I think that moment will be super special if I’m fortunate enough to get that opportunity.”
Fowler grew up with a footballing family in Queensland, Australia by the beach in Cairns. Her brother Caoimhin and sister Ciara both played professionally and represented the Republic of Ireland and Australia at youth level.
It wasn’t always clear to Fowler, though, that she would follow that same path. Competing interests almost saw her take a different direction until she moved to the Netherlands aged 11.
“I did a lot of netball and I was a cross-country runner,” she adds. “Cross-country was probably my sport that was up there with football. So I didn’t really know which one I wanted to pursue until we moved.”
Living in the land of Total Football, Johan Cruyff and now Vivianne Miedema had a profound impact on her relationship with the sport. She started to live and breathe football.
“I think it was just being immersed in that culture where football is everything to so many people in the Netherlands,” she adds.
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“Since I started playing football in Cairns I did a lot of extra training with my family because they all played football. When we moved to Holland, we kept on doing that, but then instead of having play-time outside with your friends, that was playing football in the streets with your friends. I was just around football so much more.
“We just ended up playing heaps and heaps of football because it’s just what all the kids wanted to do.
“Playing football at school, after school. I remember some days we’d miss our actual team football training because we were playing on the streets with the kids.”
Fowler’s brother Caoimhin played football professionally in the Netherlands when they were there and was always an example for his younger sister.
She admits she wouldn’t be playing football now without him. Asked by Sky Sports who her role models are, Fowler names Caoimhin ahead of Marta. A telling indication of the important role he has played in her career.
Football can be a lonely business and the presence of her brother has helped Fowler navigate tricky water at a young age. He even lived with her in Montpellier when she moved to France at 16.
“To have an older brother that’s experienced a lot of the things that I go through and that just to have someone that understands those things you go through,” she adds.
“Playing football you’re so lucky with what you have. But it’s hard to understand sometimes for someone who hasn’t played football at that level.
“So to have my older brother to understand things and to be able to chat to about these things, he’s been like a coach for me since I started playing football.”
Watch Man City vs Aston Villa live on Sky Sports Football on Saturday from 10.30am, kick-off 11.30am.
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