It's down to the final two teams at the Women’s World Cup and the streets of Lyon are filled with jerseys from all over the world in a show of pride for their team's efforts.
At first glance, the motto for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup 'Le moment de briller' (Dare to Shine) seems like a pretty standard line for a major sporting tournament and the moments of brilliance fans can expect to see on display.
However, when you think about its application to women’s football, which has always been overshadowed by men’s it becomes so much more than words on promotional banners.
This added meaning has not been lost on the spectators many of whom, like the Sydney based group dubbed ‘The Croissants’ have grown up playing in an environment where even something as simple as properly fitting shorts feels like progress.
“We all played, I played with boys until I was 13 years old and you couldn’t play with them anymore and then there’s been a huge change."
"And now we all play for a quite well-established women’s football club and seeing that change over the last ten years has been amazing. We’ve gone from having no funding and having to wear men’s clothes and no supporters coming to watch the game.
"To having crowds at our game and having Nike doing our jerseys and having women’s shorts which up until this year we didn’t have- it seems so silly but it was actually such a big win for us.”
These wins have been hard to come by, with the gender disparity in facility access and wages well documented in the lead up to the World Cup.
However, the 2019 tournament shows signs of a game that is coming into its own.
“I know a lot of my groups of friends back home have become so much more involved with it in the past 6 to 12 months. I think it’s just because they’ve got a world name for themselves and a lot of people know them. They know the name Sam Kerr, they know the names Caitlin Foord and Hayley Raso and they are starting to really understand who the Matildas are. Even the home friendly games, the stadiums were packed.”
It almost goes without saying that the key person in this growth of recognition is Kerr as her exploits in front of goal have put her on the radar of football and non-football fans alike.
“Obviously we’re all wearing her jersey but she has made a massive difference for this team, she’s winning awards all around the world and has even just gotten nominated for two more and so I just think getting her name out there then filters through for the team and lets the whole team shine as a group. So her as an individual player and being captain of the team, she’s killing it out there.”
Many critics that Kerr and the team failed to ‘kill it’ when it mattered most, resulting in their premature exit from the World Cup.
While for the most part The Croissants and their Matildas jerseys have been welcomed everywhere they’ve gone they have come up against similar negativity.
“Last night some people were like; ‘why did you waste your money coming to the other side of the world, surely you didn’t think they were going to do well?’. But it’s comments like that that, we’re all supporting the same idea here, we’re all trying to support women’s football, regardless of what nationality we are- there’s no point shooting others down- we’ve come over and we could be from a team that’s not even here, we’ll come over and support the game.”
The definition of a Croissant (kwa•ssont) (noun): “A member of a larger group of individuals who are known for their love of buttery, delicious pastries and possess an acute awareness of the location of every camera within a 6 kilometre radius” #welivefootball #wearematildas
The girls have also noticed a rise in support from men that has seen the women’s game extend its reach beyond its traditional fan base.
“We had these three guys behind us talking about their favourite teams in the women’s champions league and all of us were standing there listening to this conversation and we were just loving it. We were like this is incredible to see that they are so passionate about a team which a lot of men are but they are usually men’s teams. It’s really important for the growth of the game.”
A lot of people put this down to there being less pretence in the women’s football.
“Leading up to the world cup when I was telling people that I was going there was quite a few people that were like I’ve actually been enjoying watching women’s sport. Because of the way women play it, it’s not so individual, it’s more a united sort of thing and there’s no diving. They really like the way women play because they’re happy to get in there in a 50/50 tackle and get up and keep going but the men do the big dive and- it’s just about them. We hope women’s sport doesn’t get to that and we got a taste for that with some games and we weren’t about it.”
However, this can be a bit of a double edged sword as female footballers seem to be subject to greater scrutiny when it comes to celebrating their achievements.
“In terms of showmanship girls get criticised ten times more than men. Like Rapinoe, if a guy did that, nothing whereas if a girl does that, they just get so much heat. Like some girls are just willing to cop it which is kind of great and then it’s understandable why some girls hold back because why would you put yourself through it?”
The women who are putting themselves through that are the ones who are advancing the game. While France 2019 hasn’t been without its issues it has showcased the growing passion for women’s football.
It has brought fans of the game together it has given the next generation role models beyond those provided by the men’s game. It has given these women their moment to shine and a platform to keep on shining.
“We need to keep seeing fantastic women’s football on an international stage like you can’t get any better. We’re not even at the beginning, it’s a massive step forward and it’s just going to be an exponential thing with more and more people.”