Australian Celebrities

Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold reveals her brother Sam is her biggest fan

'It's been an emotional rollercoaster.'
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The Matildas’ 2023 World Cup campaign will be forever etched in our memories, thanks in large part to the extremely capable hands of goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold.

Stepping between the posts to defend a nail-biting penalty kick decider in the quarterfinal against France, Mackenzie propelled the Aussies into a history-making semi-final against England – and instantly became a national hero. 

WATCH: Sam Kerr scores at the Women’s World Cup semi-final 2023. Article continues after the video.

The feat earned her the nickname ‘Brick Wall’, but to her big brother Sam Arnold she is simply ‘Kenz’.

Queensland-based Sam, 34, spent his childhood playing backyard soccer with his younger sister. He watched on anxiously as Mackenzie, 29, stood between victory and defeat in every thrilling Matildas match.

“It’s such a hard position to play mentally, being a goalkeeper,” Sam tells New Idea exclusively. “Being a World Cup, it just adds that extra element of nervousness.

“I’m so proud of her.”

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Mackenzie has two children. (Credit: Getty)

Sam, his wife Amy and daughters Peyton, three, and one-year-old Sage, all came to Sydney to cheer on Mackenzie, setting them on what he describes as an “emotional roller-coaster”.

“The penalty shootout with France was amazing, it was very emotional. Every shot that was taken, the heart rate kept getting faster and faster,” recalls Sam, who watched with proud parents Leah and Steven.

“Being close relatives, it feels like we’re on the field ourselves. The pressure is hard to put into words.”

While the Matildas didn’t come out on top against England last week, Sam tells New Idea he’s thrilled Australia has embraced the team, and women’s soccer, with open arms.

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Australia was heartbroken by the Matildas vs England loss. (Credit: Getty)

“Regardless of the result, everyone was still able to walk out pretty happy,” he says. “There weren’t too many disappointed faces walking out when the game finished.”

Speaking to New Idea the morning after the Matildas went down 3-1 to England in Sydney, Sam says, “I caught up with Mackenzie briefly after the game. As disappointed as she was, we tried to remind her she played fantastically throughout the tournament.

“She should be proud of what she’s done and walk out with her head held high.”

And his daughters could soon be pulling on the soccer cleats, just like Aunty Kenzie!

WATCH: Matildas players react to getting picked for the World Cup squad. Article continues after the video.

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“I definitely won’t force them, but I think that the interest would be there,” says Sam. “The exposure for girls to see that soccer is a boys’ and girls’ game, it’s great and only encourages girls to go and get a soccer ball and play around with it – it’s only going to do wonders for women in soccer.

“The game has come such a long way now where my girls would be able to play in a female team almost from the get-go, whereas Mackenzie had a solid eight years that she would play in the boys’ team.”

Peyton and Sage are arguably the goalkeeper’s biggest fans. They often join Mackenzie on the pitch after her games and sent messages of support before each match during the World Cup.

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The Matildas have not only inspired a generation, but an entire nation. (Credit: Getty)

“When they see her face on TV, they definitely recognise her, yelling out ‘Aunty Kenzie’,” says Sam. “Before every game we do a good luck video.”

Mackenzie too, couldn’t be prouder to be part of Australian sports history, and inspiring the next generation of mini-Matildas.

“The legacy we wanted to leave throughout this World Cup [was] to inspire a generation,” Mackenzie said following their loss to England. “We have done more than what we thought we could accomplish.”

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