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Julie Murray issued a strong warning and a challenge to administrators today against under-estimating the rising power of Women’s football.
Murray, a former captain of the Australian Matildas, was inducted today along with co-Matilda Tracey Wheeler into the Football Australia Hall Of Fame.
“Women players can now match the men in skill and tactics and in the pace of the game,” Murray said.
“With the Women’s National League and television bringing faces to the public that were formerly unknown the future is definitely looking brighter.
“We’re nearly as tough and ruthless as the men but we don’t dive or act like prima donnas as some men do.”
Murray, who was the first Australian woman to play professional football in the United States, forced her way into the national team in 1986 to become, at age 15, the youngest ever to win selection in the national side.
In a 13-year national career she captained the Matildas until her retirement, contesting the 1988 pilot World Cup in China as well as the 1995 and 1999 World Cups and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
“At this stage we can’t challenge the popularity of the men or their mindset that football is a male sport but in Sydney there has been a 40 per cent increase in the women’s numbers.
“It will probably take making a World Cup or Olympic Games final to change that mindset.”
What was once a hit or miss effort by the women has gradually changed to a more sophisticated and tactical game, a point recognised by the world body FIFA with its introduction of a women’s World Cup and Olympic inclusion.
It’s also a point acknowledged by Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley.
“It’s essential that we have a strong comprehensive women’s program to cater for young girls coming into the game and providing a pathway to the national league and international level,” he said.
“There is a big future for the women’s game and, with the current 120,000 participants, it is the fastest growing sport in Australia.”
Former assistant national women’s coach Jeff Olver said women were eager to learn, absorbed coaching techniques better and were good athletes.