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Matildas groundswell of support
The Matildas team for the Tournament of Nations was announced on Tuesday. Added to the list
that already contained 16-year-old Amy Sayer
was Mary Fowler, just 15 years old, currently playing for Bankstown City in the NSW Women’s NPL and now with the chance to represent Australia. This isn’t the first time that the Matildas have demonstrated age is no barrier to opportunity – teammate Ellie Carpenter was the youngest Olympian at Rio in 2016. It’s proof that any girl across Australia, playing football at a grass-roots club level, can make it on the world stage.
The Matildas are a representation of modern Australian. A dynamic blend of youth, diversity, enthusiasm and grit. At the Tournament of Nations they face a tough challenge with three of the four competing nations ranked above them, but they’ll demonstrate the determination which has made them one of Australia’s most popular teams. It isn’t the first time, after all, that they’ve been ranked as the underdogs and come out on top.
On the horizon is another challenge the team has squarely in mind at the tournament – Australia’s 2023 Women’s World Cup bid. With a $5m investment from the federal government, Australia has not just confirmed its interest in hosting, but stamped it.
FFA’s head of corporate strategy, international and government relations, Mark Falvo, indicated on Tuesday that the nation is in it to win it. “Not only will this have an impact on tourism and economics in Australia, it can transform Australian society,” Falvo tells Guardian Australia. “The Matildas are a shining beacon for gender equality in Australia. Hosting the Women’s World Cup could have an immense societal impact not just here in Australia, but in the surrounding [Asia Pacific] region.”
Women’s football is within the participation space and 2018 figures show a from 2017 in the number of women playing football across the nation. The Matildas have been trailblazers for this significant shift, with their including packing out stadiums in Australia, a raft of international wins, and signing a which ensures their salary and conditions are becoming more equitable.
“[From a public perspective] I can genuinely say the Matildas receive equal attention as the Socceroos,” Falvo says. “And they have out-performed them for some time. They are an exceptional
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team of skill, and a reflection of Australia today.”
Australia is up against some tough competitors in the Women’s World Cup bid. While the formal process hasn’t started
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yet, there has been significant preparation behind the scenes. Japan, Columbia and South Africa have all gone on the public record noting their interest in securing the games.
“All of these countries are tough competitors, however, we believe our bid will be strong and unique,” Falvo says. “Women’s football is booming in Australia, and the Matildas have been a tremendous success. We’ve been committed to women’s football for some time, with the W-League and the professional league long established in Australia.”
FFA has been working with state and territory governments across Australia to ensure their support of the Women’s World Cup bid. If Australia is to be successful, games would be held in at least six of the states and territories – ensuring a nation-wide reach.
“There’s momentum behind women in sport,” Falvo says. “The talent is fierce. This is the time.”
Indeed it would seem that women in sport are propelled by the juggernaut of change, gaining more recognition on the national and international stage. While some might say this has been a long time coming and much more can be done from
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a sponsorship and broadcast perspective, others welcome the groundswell, and believe equity in the women’s game across sports is just around the corner.
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