Matildas’ success inspires next generation of female footballers

The Matildas are blazing a path for the next generation of women's sport.

The Matildas are blazing a path for the next generation of women's sport. Photo: Getty

The Matildas’ history-making entrance into the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-finals won the hearts of the nation, evoking a fierce pride and passion for a sport that has often been overlooked in favour of AFL and NRL.

But the biggest impact of the Matildas’ electrifying Saturday performance against France will likely be manifested by little girls across the country for years to come.

Young boys have no shortage of big-name football stars to be inspired by, but girls have far fewer professional female players to choose from – and far less opportunity to see them in action, with broadcasters reluctant to show women’s football games due to traditionally low viewership.

Now, almost a month into the 2023 Women’s World Cup, Matildas’ games are smashing viewership records and reports are emerging of boys and girls alike playing as Sam Kerr or Hayley Raso on the pitch.

The Matildas are inspiring the next generation of female football players. Photo: Croydon FC

Huge growth

Adrian Zajac, executive committee member for Adelaide-based Croydon FC, said he has been fielding multiple calls and emails every day since the World Cup kicked off from women wanting to join the club and parents keen to get their young girls into football.

Croydon FC is home to one under-9 girls team, one senior women’s community team, and one senior women’s state league team.

Mr Zajac said there has been such an onslaught of interest recently that Croydon FC is considering adding to their roster of female players.

“We will be looking to put on some more girls teams [next season],” he said.

Even before the World Cup, Australia’s upcoming female football talent have been hard at work.

Croydon FC has a 10-year-old female player so good she plays in the under-13 boys’ team, and recently trialled at England’s West Ham United.

The name of the aspiring Matildas player? Matilda.

Young girls have a bigger and brighter future in the world of football. Photo: Instagram/@croydonfootballclub

“Obviously, [football’s] been a male-dominated sport for a long time, but over the last five years, the growth in women’s football has been huge,” Mr Zajac said.

“This World Cup has just escalated it even more, so it’s been the best thing for football in Australia – not only [for] girls and women, but we’ve got boys running around in Matildas shirts with Kerr and Raso on the back.”

Croydon FC’s new $7 million Regency Park home opened earlier this year, and is hoped to generate even more interest for the club from male and female players.

Not all Australian football clubs are so lucky.

Hopes for upgrades

Up to 45 per cent of Melbourne-based FC Clifton Hill’s players are female, filling three senior women’s teams and five junior girls’ teams.

The World Cup is ramping up the passion for the younger players, many of whom turned up to games over the past weekend wearing gloves à la Mary Fowler.

But Michael Tyrikos, FC Clifton Hill president, said facilities aren’t keeping up with the club’s needs.

“We’ve been pushing for a facility upgrade for maybe the last 10, 15 years,” he said.

“They’re [absolutely] not female-friendly.”

FC Clifton Hill has been home to senior women’s and girls teams for more than 15 years. Photo: Instagram/@fccliftonhill

The club has two change rooms servicing the older male and female teams, with players aged 14 and above; both change rooms are set up in a way that their interiors are fully visible to people entering and exiting the club’s kitchen.

This is uncomfortable for all players, along with staff who need to be extra cautious before entering or exiting the kitchen.

Mr Tyrikos hopes the local council will provide up to three portable change rooms next year while the club attempts to get enough funding to update its facilities in time for the following year.

The Matildas’ stellar World Cup performance might just be the kind of exposure women’s football needs for clubs like FC Clifton Hill to keep its facilities fit for purpose for players of all genders.

“We obviously need a facility upgrade, and you would think [the Matildas’] success at the World Cup might push it over the line to get it done,” Mr Tyrikos said.

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