Matildas captain and superstar striker Sam Kerr wants the momentum Australian football has built from the FIFA Women’s World Cup in her home country to translate into more funding and support for the sport.
Australia has galvanised around the Matildas like no other sporting team in recent memory before them as they stormed their way to the final four of the tournament where they were just pipped by England on Wednesday night.
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Not since Cathy Freeman’s golden 400m run at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 has the entire country been so transfixed on one sporting moment as it was on Wednesday night.
The Matildas shattered TV ratings records for Channel 7, attracted sellout crowds, and filled live sites around the country during their inspired run to the semi-final — Australia’s best result at any men’s or women’s World Cup in history.
And though it has been a ground-breaking step forward to capture the attention and passion of the entire nation, Australian football now faces the challenge of maintaining the momentum in its next step forward.
A massive participation sport, football has traditionally struggled to cut through at the professional level in Australia — or land the type of funding that the likes of the AFL and NRL have consistently had given to them.
After Wednesday night’s shattering 3-1 loss to England, Kerr, who scored an extraordinary solo goal, though bitterly disappointed, took a moment to observe the needs of the sport from a wide lens.
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Sam Kerr has called for more funding in football. Credit: Getty
“We are there, we’re right there,” Kerr said.
“I can only speak for the Matildas. We need funding in our development. We need funding in our grassroots. We need funding. We need funding everywhere.
“The comparison to other sports isn’t really good enough. And hopefully this tournament changes that because that’s the legacy you leave — not what you do on the pitch. The legacy is what you do off the pitch.
“And hopefully, I mean, it’s hard to talk about now, but hopefully that this is the start of something new.”
As England celebrate disappointed Australia captain Sam Kerr ponders what might have been. (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP
Vice-captain Steph Catley echoed Kerr’s thoughts and hoped the World Cup could prove “just the beginning” for women’s football in Australia.
“When you look at football in general in Australia, football is very much not funded the way it should be.
“There’s no argument now that people aren’t interested; people are interested. The numbers are there. Kids are playing. People want to be watching the sport.
“So yeah, hopefully this has just been enough to prove that and to create the argument and to improve facilities, improve standards for women in football, football in general.”
Beaten but unbowed, Steph Catley wants Australian football to build on the FIFA Women’s World Cup momentum. (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP
Striker Emily van Egmond, who was subbed on late in the game against England, added: “My message is that I hope that this is just the beginning and that they continue to support this team.
“Because like we see if you invest in women’s football, you can see the growth of it and hopefully this is just the start.”
Midfielder Katrina Gorry urged fans not to desert women’s football after the World Cup.
“It’s been absolutely incredible to be on home soil for a World Cup,” Gorry said.
“The supporters that have been with us from day one and everyone else that has jumped on board to watch this beautiful game.
“The shift in Australian football has just been incredible.
“We’ve loved every minute of it. From getting off the plane to walking out of our hotel; Australia, we love you. I hope we’ve made you proud.
“There’s still so much to go for. Don’t jump off the bandwagon now, keep on coming and I’m sure we’ll make you proud.”
– With AAP