Studying abroad in Spain, any night of the week I could walk around the city and find bars with people watching football.
Watching Real Madrid play in their city is to watch a whole bar breathe as one.
A large projected image invites all, swearing in unison, hands flailing at the officials.
At the Algarve Cup in Portugal, there are a handful of fans.
The stadiums are remote.
I find myself walking down an isolated country road in the rain for twenty minutes before I stumble upon another fan.
She’s young too.
We laugh about the absurdity of being a 20-year-old woman walking alone in the Portuguese countryside to watch a woman’s football match.
To our friends, it seems ridiculous to travel so far to watch a game.
Most of the women I’ve met at the Algarve Cup have been alone.
Carla is a nineteen-year-old German on a gap year supporting both Canada and Australia because Germany isn’t playing.
Ally is an Australian studying in Europe for a semester who couldn’t miss the chance to see the Matildas live.
I meet another girl from Northern Spain who travelled with her mother to meet her Matildas hero, Steph Catley only to arrive and find her injured.
Her mother recounts to me in Spanish about how she pushed her daughter to get the Matildas tour bus doors to open so she could meet her after coming so far.
We sit on the empty train platform in the dark and tell each other our plans to go to France next year for the World Cup.
There have always been stories about men doing crazy things to meet their sporting heroes but something feels different about the women at the Algarve Cup.
These women have travelled through countries to watch their team play.
These young women have travelled alone for the first time not expecting anything in return.
There is no party, no crowd to walk with and sometimes nobody to talk with at halftime.
As I arrive at the stadium to watch the Matildas face off against Portugal, I meet a group of Matildas fans eagerly waiting to be let in