As we wrap up the year, contributor Elizabeth Redding highlights one of the most talked about events in the country, the 2023 Women's World Cup, and highlights how 'soccer mania' swept the nation.
On the 20th of July, like thousands of others, I tuned in for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup opening matches. I'm not a sports person and rarely watch it unless it is the Olympic Games but, as Australia was hosting, I thought that it was only right to watch our Matilda’s play their first game. However, I thought I’d only watch the first match and maybe the final and didn’t think, as I wasn’t a soccer fan, that I would get particularly into the event.
How wrong I, like almost the entire country, was – for the next month, I was completely swept up in Matilda's fever, and gone was the girl who had very little interest in soccer or sport at all. Suddenly there appeared a soccer mania, and I was someone who was screaming at the TV anytime a Matilda even touched the ball, whose heart stopped beating when Sam Kerr simply fell, and who held their breath at the longest penalty shootout in history. To put it simply, I was on the verge of bursting every time the Matilda’s scored and won a game.
Like most of the country, I was overwhelmed by the power of the Matilda’s and how they are indeed the perfect example of flourishing. I wanted to learn more about these amazing young women who, in the space of only a few short weeks, completely transformed the country's and the world's idea of women in sport. Many critics were constantly declaring that women’s sports weren’t popular and that no one would watch them. Well, thanks to the Matilda’s their viewing numbers blew the critics out of the water. With 11.5 million people watching the Matilda’s final match, it clearly shows the power these young women have had on female sport all around the country for generations to come.
After watching the Matilda’s documentary on Disney Plus, it was amazing to discover each of their individual journeys and everything that they have overcome to get where they are today. Not only in this World Cup did these Matilda’s get further than any male or female team in our history, but they also broke the glass ceiling of women’s soccer by uniting the country and breaking records of viewership every game they played.
Although the Matilda’s couldn’t quite bring the trophy home this time, their impact on the whole country and women’s sport goes so far beyond that and will be felt, and their legacy continued, for generations to come. The Matilda’s in their kindness, commitment, compassion and strength to continue against constant sexism, demonstrates the power of female sport. They have united a country in hope and excitement for the future of soccer and female sport to flourish and grow faster and further than many thought before this World Cup.
The Matilda’s have shown that you can comfort your fellow players after a loss and still be strong, you can be a mum and still an elite athlete, you can be from any part of Australia or the world and still be on the world stage, and you can wear a hearing aid and still play sport at an international level.
The Matilda’s have illustrated over the entirety of the World Cup that soccer is for all and the impact they have had on Australia will continue to uplift women of all ages, give little girls sporting heroes, and change the landscape of female sport for generations to come.