Australian football is moving forward. One of the driving factors has been the exponential growth in girls and women’s playing the world game.
Former Matilda Trae McGovern was optimistic about the future of female football in Australia. McGovern, who won four caps for Australia from 1997-1999, believed the Matildas and the W League can really drive the growth of female football down under.
“The best thing about women’s football at the moment in Australia is the real connection Aussie sports fans have with the Matildas,” said McGovern. “We didn’t perform our best at the World Cup but we still love them, there is a real belief for better things to come.”
McGovern’s opinion is supported by a survey conducted by True North Research earlier this year which found that Australia's national women's football team sit on top of the BenchMark EC Ladder, a measure of the emotional connection fans have with their teams.
Crowd numbers at Matildas games have increased dramatically in the past two years with a record-breaking attendance of 20,029 at BankWest Stadium when Australia beat Chile in November.
McGovern is hopeful the Matildas can qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with a qualifying tournament taking place in China in February next year against Taiwan, Thailand and China.
“2020 will be an interesting year with the Olympics,” said McGovern. “It’s redemption time, plus it could be the end of an era for some of our oldest players.”
McGovern, a Newcastle Jets fan, was also upbeat about the Westfield W-League and its impact on domestic fans.
“With the W League, teams are really starting to perform now, games are close, classic goals scored and best of all, the keepers have been exceptional,” she said.
McGovern also stressed the importance of sport in Australia playing a role in breaking down cultural barriers. With religion causing division amongst some football codes, McGovern was quick to point out how soccer has led the way in helping different religions and cultural beliefs blend together.
“We saw the footage of the opposing team surround a young girl who’s hijab was accidentally pulled off in Jordan. That right there shows how we should treat each other with respect no matter what differences we have. It was amazing.”
FIFA in fact lifted a law banning head scarves for Islamic footballers back in 2014. FFA immediately supported this.
There have been plenty of examples where females from different backgrounds have been supported when trying to play football in Australia, with many clubs providing sufficient facilities and funding to encourage more girls and women to play.
Last weekend the African National Sports Association (ANSA) had an exhibition game between an African XI and Afghanistan XI prior to their men’s annual Cup Final between Mali and Somalia.
The game was a tremendous success and there are plans for more matches like this going forward.
“It’s great to see multi cultural competitions happening for these amazing and brave young ladies who come from backgrounds that perhaps don’t support female football as much as they should,” said McGovern. “I hope they get the support they deserve.”
In further good news for female football down under, it was announced yesterday that New Zealand will join Australia’s bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, strengthening the chances of staging the major event.