Pro Spotlight: Meikayla Moore
ATHLETE: Meikayla Moore
Born in New Zealand, 23-year old Olympian, Meikayla Moore, is a professional footballer (soccer player) overseas in Germany for Flyer Alarm Frauen Bundesliga. She is also a member of the Football Ferns and has made 38 appearances since her debut in 2013 against China. Her passion for football started back when she was only 4 years old and it has remained strong since then.
After dedicating years towards investing her heart and soul into training for the 2019 World Cup, she suddenly tore her achilles tendon in a warm-up in France, ruling her out of the World Cup before it even begun.
Devastated and heartbroken, she takes us through the experience, opens up about the mental and emotional rollercoaster, and her plans for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
IN THE NEWS:
“In the beginning of 2018, life was going great. I made the decision to move overseas to better myself as a player individually as well as for my team, Football Ferns. I started the 2017/18 season playing for 1.FC Köln in Cologne before moving to Duisburg for the 2018/19 season. I thoroughly enjoyed my first season there and just couldn’t wait to continue my journey with Duisburg in Germany’s top flight.
Following the 2018/19 season in Germany, I felt more confident as a player and had trained incredibly hard to be physically ready for the Women’s World Cup. To be selected for my second senior World Cup was a dream come true and I was beyond excited. This time I was older, stronger, more experienced and technically better than I had been in the 2014 World Cup. The lead up to France went really well, both for our team and for myself individually. I played a part in each of our warm games against USA, Mexico, England, and Wales. Starting and playing a full 90 mins against world #1 America and against world #3 England, where we beat England on home soil 1-0, was an incredible experience.
However, upon arriving in France, two days out from our first game of the World Cup against Holland, I ruptured my left Achilles completely in the warm up…. ruling me out entirely from participating in the World Cup at all.
I was beyond heart broken and absolutely devastated. The hardest part, without a doubt has been mentally.
I can remember right after it happened being in excruciating pain instantly. If I was anywhere other than a football field I would’ve thought I had been shot, or that someone had got a knife and just sliced clean through right above my ankle. It was that painful. But then all of a sudden, the pain went away.
I remember being on the ground holding below my calf. I was crying but I wasn’t entirely sure why. A flood of thoughts about what just happened flowed into my mind. Within 2-5 mins I knew that this was not just a small injury.
The medical team ran over and started their check over, and I could see it on their face. I begged one of the medical staff to please just tell me what was going on… but by then, I had already started piecing the events together myself. I couldn’t push down into the physio’s hand when asked to. I had no dorsi flexion power, and I could feel significant tightness. But the feeling that made me absolutely desolate was coming from my chest. It was as if, despite not having 100% confirmation from the medical team, my body already knew, my heart already knew that I was done. My World Cup was over. And every single action, both physically and mentally that had gone into my gruelling preparation on and off the pitch leading up to this Women’s World Cup had all amounted to nothing.
So that was the moment when my life had turned upside down and my journey began.
Seeing my teammates upon returning from the hospital was one of the hardest things I have had to experience. They had not yet been told what had happened 100% (I had told the medical team that I wanted to be the one to share news about my situation to my team). But they all knew and could tell that it was serious. I came back from the hospital on crutches, with my leg in a cast. My teammates had gathered in the team dining room and I crutched in to see a massive sheet of paper, covered in kind and supportive messages from the girls, alongside flowers and some sweets. Already teary and overwhelmed with emotion, I broke down at the sight of it all. Taking a seat, I began to tell them all that I had completely ruptured my left Achilles and as a result, I was no longer going to be able to contribute to the team or take part in this World Cup.
It’s hard to describe how I felt in that moment - it was agonizing and heartbreaking to be telling my second family this news but at the same time, I had never felt so much love and support from a group of people outside of my initial family circle. It was after that moment, despite all the mixed emotions that I told myself that I was going to get through this. They were all going to be behind me and they were going to play this World Cup with me in their hearts.
Following that conversation, the Head Coach of the Ferns, Tom, pulled me to the side, with the leadership group alongside, and told me that they were not going to send me home and that I would be able to stay in the environment for the duration of the campaign. I broke down again, because in many cases, and understandably so, the player is sent home for the player that is coming in to replace them. But Tom told me that I was an integral member of this team and that the team needed me here just as much as I needed them. I did not know what to say. I was beyond thankful and hugely grateful. Despite my World Cup journey being over, I was still going to be able to experience it all through my teammates.
Three days following the [achilles tendon] rupture and on the Ferns opening match of the World Cup against Netherlands, I was in a Hospital in France, being operated on. The surgery went as planned, and I was out of the operating room in time to watch the game through my laptop in the hospital, surrounded by my seven family members that had arrived in Le Harve, from New Zealand that day.
Throughout the Ferns campaign in France, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions that I was not at all prepared for. Having never sustained such a significant injury in my life before this, and considering the circumstances, it was completely overwhelming for the majority of the time. I will forever be thankful to have remained in the environment but I can say without a doubt that it had been certainly one of the hardest experiences of my life to date. I didn’t know how I would cope some days, and I would frequently break down to my roommate Ria in the comfort of our room. I didn’t want to take away the focus or attention away from my teammates who were competing in the World Cup, nor did I want them to worry about me, but I knew they were probably doing so anyway.
I can remember being in crutches and a cast in the stands, watching our second game against Canada, tears streaming down my face, flag around my shoulders as the national anthem rang around the stadium in Grenoble. I felt utmost pride, but immense heartache at the same time. A feeling that I hope I will never have to experience again in my lifetime.
The entire 2019 World Cup is certainly one that I will not forget for a while, and a period of my life that I am sure I will look back on in a few years from now, and still not understand. What I know as an athlete is that the risks are always there. We all know it is. However, the timing and chance of that happening to me, when and how it did, will have a lasting impact on myself as both a player but as a person as well. My character is forever changed.
Fast Forward to today, I am currently 3 months’ post op. The rollercoaster of emotions has not wavered and I have had to not only reach out for help, but also change some aspects of my life. What I am realizing is that there is quite a large hole in my identity as a person. Working with a mental coach, we have come to the conclusion that not being a ‘footballer’ (although this period is only temporary) has brought to the forefront many things that in the past, I had buried, just because I could… because I was a footballer, and that was what I placed my entire focus on, day after day, for many years.
It’s a journey that I am sure is going to continue to throw me curve balls as I go through each phase and stage both physically and mentally. But it is something that I am without a doubt 100% up for. I’ve got Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics well within my sights. It’s not an option for me not to be on that plane. I will play the game I love so dearly again with that Fern sitting prouder than ever before on my chest.”
Thank you Meikayla for sharing your experience and inspiring athletes across the globe.
All the best on your road towards the comeback!