From Tragedy to Triumph: Matildas’ Star Lydia Williams - 96five Family Radio

From Tragedy to Triumph: Matildas’ Star Lydia Williams

On the eve of the Women’s World Cup, the mother of the Matildas’ veteran goalie shares about her daughter’s unique life.

By Michael CrooksThursday 13 Jul 2023SportReading Time: 3 minutes

As the Matildas prepare to take on the world in July and August, one Canberra woman will be bursting with pride.

Diana Williams is a retired pastor of the Canberra Chinese Christian Church (English congregation) and is also the mother of Lydia Williams – the Matildas’ goalkeeper and longest-serving player.

At this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, hosted by Australia and New Zealand, Lydia, 35, will be making her fifth World Cup appearance.

Lydia, whose late father was Indigenous, was the first goalkeeper to play 100 games for the Matildas, and has been in the side for more than 17 years.

“I think she is the most excited about this World Cup,” Diana, who hails from the US, tells Hope 103.2 from her home in Canberra.

“Because it’s at home – it’s just a special thing for them all.”

Lydia Williams is the only child of Diana and her late husband Ron, an Indigenous elder and pastor from the Noongar tribe in WA.

Diana and Ron met while Diana, who was born in Oklahoma, was travelling in Australia as a Christian missionary.

After marrying, Diana and Ron lived in WA – first in Katanning and then Kalgoorlie.

During Lydia’s childhood, her parents would conduct missionary work, helping impoverished communities.

“Once a year, we’d pack up our four-wheel drive and camper trailer and go out bush,” Lydia said in 2020.

When the family moved to Canberra, Lydia, who was a keen Aussie rules footy player in WA, began playing soccer and basketball, and excelled in both.

But playing two sports was too much.

“I said to her, ‘I think we’re going to have to choose [one sport],’ because there were too many clashes,” Diana said. “And so, she chose soccer.”

The rest is history.

Lydia made the Australian women’s team at the age of 17, playing Korea Republic in 2005.

Since then, she has made 102 appearances for the Matildas, including in the Women’s World Cup, Olympic Games and AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

“Ron once said, ‘My hope and prayer is for her is to represent Australia and Aboriginal people in her sport,’ ” Diana said.

Tragically, Ron died of a rare cancer in 2003, when Lydia was just 14.

“It was a shock,” Diana said. “It took us several years to work through it. I mean, we’re still going through it. But he’s always with us.”

Despite several setbacks, including two anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, Lydia is the longest-serving member of the Matildas.

“To look at photos of her when she was little, and to think that one day she was going to be traveling the world to play soccer and play on the world stage is unbelievable,” Diana said.

Indeed, Lydia has played in the Australian, American, English, and French football leagues. In the Australian A-League Women she won four titles (with Melbourne City and Canberra United). In France, she played for Paris Saint-Germain – the same club soccer great Lionel Messi was signed to until this year. She currently plays in the English Women’s Super League for Brighton & Hove Albion.

“You put out the best you are, and God meets you there and takes you from there,”

“You put out the best you are, and God meets you there and takes you from there,” said Diana, who is now training a new pastor at the Canberra church.

“It’s been amazing the way certain doors have opened. Lydia is a Christian, but she’s very open to everyone, she excludes nobody.” – Diana Williams, mother of Matildas’ goalkeeper Lydia

The Matilda’s first game kicks off on July 20 at Sydney’s Accor Stadium against the Republic of Ireland, before an expected crowd of 80,000 people.

“I’ll be there,” Diana said.

For more information on the FIFA Women’s World Cup visit here.