Sibling rivalry: The brother and sister straddling Sydney derby divide

Bernie Ibini and his sister, Princess, have always been each other's biggest supporters. For 180 minutes on Saturday, however, it's going to be a little awkward.

Derby double-headers never used to be this complicated. But the tight-knit Ibini family is split – even though, for the first time in nearly four years, the family itself is back together.

Bernie and Princess Ibini are on opposite sides of the Sydney derby divide this season.Credit:James Alcock

Princess is into her sixth W-League season with Sydney FC. But while she's happy to have Bernie back in the family home, she's less comfortable with his most recent choice of club, after defecting to the Western Sydney Wanderers.

"It's tough to see," she joked.

On Saturday, the Ibinis will be central figures at Stadium Australia. For Bernie, it's his first derby showdown against the Sky Blues, with whom he played 48 games, scored 10 goals and won a title before heading overseas.

For Princess – who former Socceroo Craig Foster once said has the potential to be one of the world's best players – it's another important step on a road that will ideally lead her to the Matildas squad for the 2023 Women's World Cup.

Princess Ibini celebrates one of her two goals against the Wanderers at Bankwest Stadium.Credit:Getty

"I'm definitely aiming to be part of that squad," said the 20-year-old winger, who scored an eye-catching double the last time Sydney met the Wanderers in the W-League two weeks ago.

"And I definitely want to play overseas – I don't know where yet, just somewhere overseas would be nice. I think if I keep playing the way I'm playing I'll be over there very soon.

"I've been playing in the league for a while so it's time for me to step up, especially since most of the [Matildas] girls have gone. I feel like as I'm getting older, I'm getting more confidence in myself."

Across the road from the Ibini household in Sydney's south-west is a large park. That's where Princess fell into the family obsession and learned how to play football under the guidance of her brothers. Bernie and Joshua are older than Princess with 12-year-old Pharrell rounding out the clan.

Bernie Ibini has made a reasonably promising start to life with the Wanderers.Credit:Getty

"A lot of good memories," she said. "It's really good to have this across the road so we can learn and get better. We'd come out here a fair bit, especially during the off-season."

"Even during lockdown, me and Princess would come out with our younger brother as well. We had a little bit of fun," Bernie said.

Bernie, 28, is proud of how Princess has started the new season and confident enough in her own ability and trajectory that he doesn't feel the need to interfere with her football, nor offer her any unsolicited advice on what to do or how best to seize the opportunities that lay in front of her.

"I tend to let Princess do her own thing and she's kind of the same," he said. "We tend to not even really talk about football. We watch games and stuff like that together but we don't really talk about it too much.

'Your career goes in different paths. I'm happy with where I am. Playing back in Sydney is always enjoyable.'

"I trust her to handle herself. She's been doing it for a long time now. I let mum talk to her more than me, to be honest. I just want to see her continue to do well."

Think what you want about the manner in which Bernie controversially parted ways with the Newcastle Jets but it's obvious he is a happier man at home, having spent the last three years playing in Canada, the UAE and South Korea.

Family means everything to him – particularly since the sudden death of their father Ibi seven years ago left him, the eldest of four siblings, as the patriarchal figure of the household. Happiness off the park, in theory, should translate into his football.

Bernie has nothing but good things to say about his time at Sydney FC, but whether their fans will have any good things to say about him on Saturday remains to be seen.

"I really don't know the reception I'll get," he said.

"I've been overseas for the past three-and-a-bit years, so I've been away for a while. I'll probably get a little bit – even when I was at Newcastle I got a little bit of stick.

"We won the league there, I enjoyed my time, but I've moved on. Your career goes in different paths. I'm happy with where I am. Playing back in Sydney is always enjoyable. My family and friends are all from here, getting to play in front of my family and friends week in, week out is something I cherish very much.

"For me it's just about enjoying my football, being back at home, spending time with my family and friends and doing my business on the park – and winning, and being around the top of the table."

Sport newsletter

Sports, results and expert commentary delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up to the Herald‘s weekday newsletter here and The Age‘s weekly newsletter here.

Most Viewed in Sport

Source: Read Full Article