The seventh instalment of the SheBelieves Cup got underway last night as Iceland took on New Zealand, and reigning champions USA hosted the Czech Republic.
The United States were dealt a shock result after drawing 0-0 in their opening match, but it was the clash being held at the Dignity Health Sports Park in California that took centre focus.
New Zealand may have lost out to Iceland but there was still a lot to celebrate for the Football Ferns as Rebekah Stott returned to the international stage.
It took Dagný Brynjarsdóttir just one minute to put her side ahead but New Zealand were able to deny any further goalscoring opportunities to keep the scoreline capped at 1-0.
After some diligent defending, the Football Ferns brought on Stott for Daisy Cleverley in the 74th minute.
The defender stepped onto the pitch to applause from her teammates and the crowd, marking a magnificent milestone in her recovery from cancer.
Stott was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March 2021, which completely halted her football career. The New Zealand international was playing for Brighton and Hove Albion at the time, but her stint in the Women’s Super League was cut short due to the illness.
Excited for the next chapter 😁 pic.twitter.com/3YYtrZ9bRl— Rebekah Stott (@stotty_13) September 28, 2021
Following her diagnosis, Stott started a blog titled ‘Beat It’, where she documented her road to recovery, including the difficult parts of her treatment.
In these raw updates, Stott shared her journey and didn’t hold back from how difficult and frightening it was at times. She included the day she shaved her head for the Leukaemia Foundation’s ‘World’s Greatest Shave’ campaign and admitted she had found the idea of losing her hair ‘daunting’.
Stott also provided positivity and hope with her updates. Titled ‘The post i’ve been waiting to write’, she announced she was in complete remission in July, just four months after her diagnosis.
Her next update came in September when she provided some insight into life after cancer treatment before making returning to the pitch in November.
Almost one year had passed since Stott had last played a game of football and there was not a single dry eye as she finally pulled on her Melbourne City shirt once again back in December.
Coach Rado Vidošić described the moment as the highlight of his coaching career.
A huge night for @stotty_13! 👏👏— Melbourne City FC (@MelbourneCity) December 3, 2021
Not only has she made her return to professional football, but she also becomes our outright all-time Women's appearance leader 👏👏#CmonCity | #CBRvMCY | #WeAreALeagues pic.twitter.com/hbfJotGms7
Now, Stott has returned to international duty and is once again in action with her beloved Football Ferns.
Taking to Twitter after the SheBelieves Cup clash, the defender wrote: “Words can’t describe this moment. Thank you so much to those who helped me get here. I’m so appreciative of everyone’s messages of support.”
Many fellow professionals tweeted their support, including the likes of Steph Catley — who Stott admitted had been “a rock” during her recovery — Jess Fishlock, and Jen Beattie.
Incredible ❤️ https://t.co/pVWEIQBgYR— Jen Beattie (@jbeattie91) February 18, 2022
Unbelievable scenes 🙂 https://t.co/vPS4t64NxT— Jessica Fishlock MBE (@JessFishlock) February 18, 2022
The next round of SheBelieves Cup fixtures will take place on Sunday, with New Zealand preparing to take on the USA and the Czech Republic heading for a clash against Iceland.