Despite being born and raised a football fanatic, Pittwaters Ildi Vukovich never played the game she loved until she was 40 years of age.
Over two decades later, she is currently the oldest registered female player in Manly Warringah Association at the age of 64.
Her late start to the game was not by choice.
Vukovich grew up in Ashfield, with migrant parents who were strong members of the tight-knit Sydney Hungarian community, which included the likes of great football broadcaster Les Murray.
Ildi has fond memories from her teenage years of watching legendary St. George Budapest teams play, cheering on Socceroos like Johnny Warren, Manfred Schaefer, Harry Williams and Adrian Alston.
But no matter how hard she tried, Vukovich was never allowed to competitively play football herself.
“With family from central Europe, football is all you play as a child, and I always played around with the boys, she remembers.
“But when women’s soccer got introduced but my father said that was not appropriate, and after I got married my husband didn’t think it was the most appropriate thing either.
“But when I hit 40 I went, you know what, I’m old enough to make these decisions on my own.
“So I started at the ripe young age of 40 after over 20 years of wanting to play.”
Age has proven no barrier for Ildi, who is registered to play for Pittwater RSL FCs womens over 40s outfit yet again this season.
She is a versatile player, having started her days playing for Avalon as an athletic left-winger, before shifting to fullback and a more recent midfield role.
Having previously played netball Ilda even tried her hand at goalkeeper.
It was in between the sticks that one of her most treasured footballing experiences arrived, when alongside a handful of her Pittwater teammates, Ildi travelled to Turin for the World Masters competition in 2013.
“I remember one game in particular it was 45 degrees on the artificial turf and I got psyched out by the heat, she recalls.
“Many goals went in and we lost, but I made some really good saves and had so many people that supported me.
“When I came off the field the coach from the other team congratulated me and told me that I had done a brilliant job in goals.
“Our team was a composite of Australian, Canadian and American players and my Canadian teammate who was a great player said one on one I had some of the best stats she had ever seen.
“There were some matches where I’d come off with both legs cramping because I played for 90 minutes, but that’s all part of the game.”
Ildi is a firm believer in the etiquette of the game and believes her philosophy of not going out to do damage to the opposition has fuelled her ability to avoid injuries.
However there is one main reason that stands out above all as to why she continues to play.
Because I love it, she enforces.
“I’ve tried some other sports and theyre really sedentary, you dont really move around, and I just love to run.
“When my husband passed away the thing that saved me was playing soccer.
“For one-and-a-half hours, you think nothing of what is going on in your life except the round ball. It just gives you a break from all the things you need to deal with.
Ildi admits that it is unlikely she will be donning the green and white of Pittwater for years to come.
But before hanging up the boots, she has a fitting farewell in mind.
“Every year I go through and think, am I up for the mental and physical challenge?,” Vukovich says.
“I have always put 65 as an age to retire, but it would be really lovely to go to one last Masters tournament. The next one is meant to be in Tokyo and that would be a lovely way to end my time in the sport.”
Do you know a remarkable figure within the MWFA community who deserves a profile like this one? Let us know! firstname.lastname@example.org