Arti Naidu knew her daughter had her heart set on soccer when much to her exasperation, she left her selective school entrance exam unfinished.
That way Avaani Prakash, 12, would be sure she didn't get in. Avaani had her sights fixed elsewhere, on the prestigious Westfields Sports High School in Fairfield in Western Sydney, where the real life Bend it Like Beckham wunderkind could pursue her sporting aspirations.
Avaani beat out hundreds of hopefuls to win a spot at the school and is now among a group of elite young Australian players in France as part of a Football NSW youth team for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019. Her dream? To play for Australia as a Matilda.
“Hopefully one day [I'll] be there representing my country,” says Avaani.
“When I was little I just always wanted to be a soccer player. I had nothing else that I wanted to do except become a professional soccer player and play for Australia.”
“I do look up to a lot of Matildas and I respect them because I know how much dedication, hard work and sacrifices it must take to become one.”
After school, Avaani is where she loves best -- in her yellow uniform practicing her soccer drills.
She bounces the ball on her toes with ease, kicking ball after ball in a graceful arc into the net.
“The ball is just one of the best things I know,” she tells SBS Life.
“It’s always a great feeling to have the ball at your feet either working on something you need to improve on or other things to get better.”
Naidu, whose Fiji-Indian family migrated from Fiji in 1994, makes sure Avaani and her brother Aayush always get their chores and homework done first. The 10-year-old also hopes to follow his sister's footsteps.
"I always tell her study comes first but if she's happy doing what she’s doing then I'm happy," she says.
Naidu says her daughter has been soccer-mad since she first took her to join a local team as a five-year-old.
Now Naidu spends most of her time chauffeuring Avaani to daily two-hour practice sessions. This means morning drop off three times a week for the 7am training, as well as three after-school sessions with Football NSW under 15 team.
Naidu says Avaani "lives and breathes" soccer, often dribbling the ball distractedly watching TV and kicking around the ball in the yard in her downtime.
“Any chance she gets she’ll have the ball at her feet,” Naidu says.
For Avaani, scoring a goal and winning is "the best feeling in the world", but she says her favourite part of the game is sharing the win with her team.
“One of the reasons I chose to play soccer is because I get to play with a team and if I play well it’s not just me, it’s because I played well [with] my team,” Avaani says.
“It’s good that they always push me to do my best."
SBS is covering the biggest games of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019™ tournament, live, free and in HD across television, radio and online. From June 8, watch or stream all Matildas games, the opening match, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final on SBS.
All SBS live matches, replays and the FIFA Women’s World Cup Today™ daily highlights show will be available to enjoy anytime and anywhere at SBS On Demand.
All 52 matches will be live on SBS Radio in multiple languages and The World Game website and app will stream all SBS matches live alongside the latest scores, video highlights, breaking news, and analysis.
Fans can also join the #WorldGameLIVE discussion show on Twitter, from 5.30pm AEST* each match day.
SBS is presenting the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ in partnership with Optus Sport.