A wave of Aussie pride is sweeping the country following the success of the Matilda’s in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
On Saturday, the Matildas beat France in the longest match in Cup history, prevailing 7-6 in a penalty shoot out, and making history as the first Australian soccer team, men’s or women’s to reach the semi-finals.
Walking past any pub last Saturday night guaranteed a view of crowds of fans huddled around flatscreens to get a glimpse of the action. TikTok and X were (and still are!) flooded with clips from the game.
The nail-biting match had Aussies enthralled, and with 4.17 million viewers tuning in it was the most-watched TV event since Cathy Freeman’s win in the 400m at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Student Shoshana Cabusi attributed the uptake in viewership of women’s soccer to the hard work female athletes have put in to gain the same status and recognition as their male counterparts.
“Over the years women have worked to gain more of a voice in sports… and we are seeing that work to come light now,” she told Central News.
Women’s sport has long been in the shadow of the men’s game. In 2021 Deakin University found less than 10 per cent of total sports coverage in Australia was dedicated to women’s games.
Youth has been an important factor in driving Matildas fever, with 41 per cent of Australians aged 15+ participating in organised sport, and 91.2 per cent of Saturday’s record-breaking viewership aged between 16 and 39.
This will be talked about, hopefully, for decades to come.
“The next generation having players to aspire to be like, and role models to look up to, is something that we as players didn’t necessarily have when we were younger,” Matildas defender Alanna Kennedy said.
State governments have been providing free screenings of matches in stadiums, arenas, and squares further promoting viewership and support for the Matildas.
NSW Premier Chris Minns said on Sunday he wants to allow “as many families as possible to get to live sites to watch the action with fellow Australians”.
The NSW state government is opening Allianz Stadium (Moore Park) and Commbank Stadium (Parramatta) for free screenings of the semi-final on Wednesday at 8pm, in which the Matilda’s will go against longtime opponent, England. Event Cinemas are also offering free screenings of Wednesday’s match around the nation.
A mural in Bondi was revealed last week and features a green and gold abyss, highlighting Sam Kerr, Steph Catley, Lydia Williams and other players. This public display represents the changing sentiment in Australia about womens sport.
“This will be talked about, hopefully, [for] decades to come. You can see the impact it’s already had on grassroots and young girls coming to our games and boys too,” said Matildas captain Sam Kerr.
Injured Matilda, Emily Gielnik said the support and attention the Tillies are receiving “will be the turning point to grow the grassroots game, to put women’s football on the map, to attract world class players over to come and play in Australia”.
Seven’s managing director Melbourne and network head of sport, Lewis Martin, summed it up: “The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 has brought Australia together in a way we haven’t seen for years. We can’t wait for Wednesday. Go Matildas!”
Wednesday’s Semi-Final starts at 8pm and can be watched/streamed live on Channel 7. Commbank Stadium and Allianz Stadium in Sydney are open to members of the public for free screenings of the game.
Main image courtesy Commbank.