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Fans divided over Matildas rumour ahead of Olympic qualifiers as Sam Kerr’s Perth homecoming sells out

Fans divided over Matildas rumour ahead of Olympic qualifiers as Sam Kerr’s Perth homecoming sells out
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Sam Kerr’s Perth homecoming with the Matildas in October could be set for a massive move after a sudden surge in ticket sales for the team’s Olympic qualifiers.

Fresh from their fourth-place finish at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Aussies will regroup in less than two months’ time to begin their journey to Paris 2024.

The Matildas, Iran, Philippines and Chinese Taipei will battle it out for top spot and guaranteed progression to the final round of qualifying.

All six matches will be played at HBF Park, a crucial win for WA football fans after a five-year wait to watch the Matildas was extended during the Women’s World Cup.

But the stadium’s 22,000-seat capacity has sparked a dilemma for Football Australia.

Tickets to the Matildas’ three matches sold out as interest soared across the final weekend of the Women’s World Cup.

Sam Kerr and the Matildas haven’t played in her hometown since 2018. Credit: Getty

Football Australia is now considering whether there is enough demand to sell out the 60,000-seat Optus Stadium for the qualifiers taking place on a Thursday night, a Sunday afternoon and a Wednesday night.

FA chief executive James Johnson said that would be the only justification for moving to a cricket ground less suited to the task than the rectangular HBF Park.

“I’m not afraid to make those kinds of decisions,” he told the West Australian.

“You’re weighing up a smaller audience potentially that are going to have an amazing experience because we’re in the right type of stadium for a football match, against potentially access and the ability of the community to come and watch the team live.”

Before snapping up tickets to the Matildas’ Olympic qualifiers, Perth fans showed up to HBF Park in strong numbers for Women’s World Cup matches featuring the likes of Ireland, Canada, Denmark and eventual quarter-finalists Colombia.

The experience has prompted football lovers to speak out against a move to Optus Stadium.

“I just implore anyone and everyone at Football Australia to not move the Olympics qualifiers from HBF to Optus. Optus would be a disaster for atmosphere and building hype post-World Cup. Please no no no no no,” one said.

“It’s chance to show how special football can be when leaning into its strengths (rectangular stadiums and atmosphere) instead of catering to a boring sugar hit, the result of which will be another forgettable night out in our crowded sporting landscape.”

Another argued “vibes were the best” during the Women’s World Cup at AAMI Park in Melbourne and Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane and “not that great” at Stadium Australia, the largest of the lot.

The Matildas’ starting XI for their last game in Perth in 2018, featuring several stars from the 2023 Women’s World Cup squad. Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

But plenty more were in favour of the Matildas playing at Optus Stadium after missing out on tickets or to see football grow.

“This would be fantastic. My son is desperate to see the Matildas play and we missed out on tickets. Hoping this happens,” one said.

Another claimed those who wanted the games to remain at HBF Park are “narrow-minded”.

“Sam Kerr literally called out for more interest, more funding, and more support for women’s football and all you puritans are hampering that by demanding it be played on a ‘proper football ground’,” they wrote.

“The game will never grow in Australia if we don’t support new fans to get involved.”

Optus Stadium has previously hosted the 2019 A-League men’s grand final as well as several English Premier League clubs on exhibition tours.

All but one of the all-England friendlies drew crowds of 46,000 or more, with more than 55,000 attending three matches involving Manchester United or Chelsea.

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