In the wee hours of tomorrow morning, Australian women’s national soccer team, the Matildas will find out whether the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be held on their home soil and across the Tasman in New Zealand, or not.
It’s an edge-of-your-seat moment not only for the Matildas, but for Aussie sport fans and female athletes all over the country.
We spoke to Matildas players Kyah Simon and Ellie Carpenter on the latest episode of It’s Been A Big Day For…about this groundbreaking decision, and what it would mean for sport in our country. LISTEN BELOW:
“It’s the biggest tournament in women’s football – it’s the pinnacle event,” Carpenter said. ”I really think everyone would want to come to Australia and New Zealand for a World Cup. They’re two beautiful countries.”
It’s a high-pressure moment for the team, but Simon explains, “each player holds themselves accountable and has their own personal goals and expectations that they want to achieve.”
Despite the undeniable passion and drive of these players, there are still struggles when it comes to competing in a mostly male-dominated sport. “There’s a myth that we don’t deserve to be out there or playing the sport,” Simon said. “In the last few years, we’ve proven that we have as much talent in us, and we put in as much hard work as our male counterparts. That’s where the pay parity and equality conversation comes into it.”
It’s no surprise Simon brings up equal pay. Last November, Football Federation Australia and Professional Footballers Australia came to a landmark agreement that would close the pay gap between the Socceroos and the Matildas, and signal a push for more gender equality across the sport.
“Seeing it progress from when I first started playing professionally 12 years ago, a lot of us were playing in the women’s league for free,” Simon recalls. “That was the slogan of women’s sport – ‘play for the love of the game’. In the last four to five years, the public recognition has obviously increased with media, sponsorships, and more dollars going into the game. It’s really rewarding.”
As for the future of women’s football in Australia, Simon and Carpenter both agree it needs to start with the youth.
“If we have younger kids playing the game at a grassroots level, then the quality is going to filter through up to the highest level – that’s the key,” Simon said. “Now, we are in a position where we play a professional sport full-time, instead of having to have a 9-5 job off the field and still try to perform as best as you can.”
“A young girl can aspire to be a Matilda and not have to worry about paying the bills and holding down another job. Credit to a lot of people who have paved the way before us,” she added.
“If we get this World Cup gig and a young girl comes to watch us play on a world stage, that’s going to inspire them to be on the field,” Carpenter said. ”I remember watching a Matildas game when I was seven or eight years old and saying ‘I want to be on that field’ – imagine having that, all the different teams and countries that are coming, seeing so many professional female footballers right in front of you.”
No matter what decision is made about the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, one thing is certain, the future for the Matildas, and women’s sport in Australia is looking very bright.
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