What a great few years we have had as Australian football fans. We have seen football emerge as a real powerhouse in the Australian sporting landscape.
The continued growth and success of the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League has seen football clearly on an upward turn.
The Socceroos’ success at the recent Asian Cup on home soil and the manner of that success has aided in rocketing football upward on this ride and cemented its position as a sporting force to be reckoned with, and a sport with massive potential due to its global reach and popularity.
Not only does football have such a global reach, the advantage it has it that everyone can play and enjoy the game.
Now we have the Westfield Matildas who have done a great job at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.
The impact the Westfield Matildas are having on Australian football is possibly the icing on the cake.
Most pleasing is that much like the Socceroos, the squad in Canada is predominantly a young team full of enthusiasm, skill, pace and a belief that they can match it with any team in the world.
Adding to this, the team is led by an all Australian coaching staff and an all Australian backroom staff.
Respect for our own coaches and technical staff is growing and we should never have this ‘inferiority complex’ which has been present in the past within certain circles.
What this group of people, both players and staff, have is a love and passion for football and specifically for the women’s game, wanting it to be broadly accepted in every way and doing all they can for this to be achieved.
Head Coach Alen Stajcic is at the forefront of this. He has been involved in the women’s game for over 15 years and has worked tirelessly with the Matildas over the past six months to mold them into this new evolved team bringing in a culture not seen before.
It is a team that ‘will never say die’, a Matildas mantra, and a team that plays fantastic free flowing football which showcases the women’s game in a positive light.
As the ex-assistant coach and now women’s technical director I have personally had the pleasure of seeing these women grow as people and footballers in every way, and I’m extremely proud of them.
They have gladly taken on the responsibility that comes with being a Matilda and they truly understand and accept that they are in a position where they can directly affect progress of women’s football in Australia and take it to a new level.
The impact that these players are having on the women’s game is enormous and confirms the importance of the Matildas within the football community in Australia.
These are young women who are true role models and who are completely dedicated to their sport and to representing their country in a typically ‘Australian Way’.
This Australian way is based predominantly on taking the game to any opposition with positive football, looking to win the game and actually dominate rather than just wishing and hoping to. Add to this the fact that the Westfield Matildas are very good at what they do and that is reflected in their world standing inside the top 10.
The success of our Socceroos and the Matildas, as mentioned, is having an enormous impact on the game in Australia.
The impact is directly evident by the increase in junior registrations and its general increase in popularity amongst the wider community. With increased registrations, we are seeing our ‘football family’ grow and lifelong football fans found to the game.
With increased participation we are continuing to see potential internationals come through the system, which you would like to think will only strengthen our national teams in the future.
A reflective mention must also be made to the success of the small-sided games concept and the role out of the curriculum. Both of these fundamental changes to our football development, both coaching and playing, has been encouraging and the rewards are only now being noted.
These rewards confirm we are on the right track as we see young players come through who are technically gifted and who play with no fear.
However, this should only be seen as the start and we need to continue this progress in our development of players and coaches.
It’s nice to be happy with how things are moving nevertheless, to continue to be successful and not be left behind we all need to keep working towards making improvements at every level and within different parts of the game on and off the field.
Well done to the Matildas and the coaches Alen Stajcic, Ross Aloisi and Vicki Linton, keep up the good work.
The fantastic performances and efforts on and off the field at this World Cup have Australians and other nations standing up and taking notice of something special.
In Australia we now have young girls who are relating to these stars, finding new idols and who are on board this ride as part of the ‘football family’. Australia is completely behind you all.
Ante Juric is the Football Federation Australia Assistant Technical Director – Women’s