The Ramble: We’ve come a long way since Bend it Like Beckham

Paul Nicholls Roar Guru

By Paul Nicholls, Paul Nicholls is a Roar Guru

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    I didn’t think I would ever say this, but Penrith was the centre of my footballing universe this week.

    Pepper Stadium scrubbed up nice and green and the packed crowd of 15,089 looked fantastic.

    Brazil started the game with intent. Instead of the usual backwards kick-off they went forward with a formation resembling 2-0-8 (I hope Ange Postecoglou didn’t see it.)

    After a slow start, Australia got more into the game and by half-time were close to dominating.

    They deserved their 1-0 lead, courtesy of a super volley by Lisa De Vanna.

    Some spirited attacking play by the Matildas in the second half was rewarded with a fine headed goal by Sam Kerr.

    A 79th minute goal by the dangerous Debinha gave the home team some nervous moments but the final scoreline of 2-1 to Australia was thoroughly deserved.

    Beating Brazil in football at any time is something worth celebrating in itself, but this game was about far more than just the result. It was about an admiration and respect for the women’s game, an acknowledgement that the Matildas are an Australian national sporting team of the first rank.

    I knew there was something special in the air when a shiver ran down my spine while the players and crowd stood for the anthems.

    It reminded me of my own fleeting involvement with women’s football some years ago. My daughter took up the game in her early teens. The catalyst for her fascination with football was the wonderful movie, Bend it Like Beckham, starring Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley, two girls who formed a strong friendship through football.

    When I found myself coaching my daughter’s team, it was a refrain echoed by almost all the girls, who were motivated to play after watching Bend it Like Beckham.

    And that’s what’s so great about these Matildas. The buzz over a movie can last only so long, but now girls in Australia have real life football role models to aspire to. Following the careers of the likes of Sam Kerr, Lisa De Vanna and Kyah Simon will serve to encourage the next generation of players.

    Tameka Butt Matildas Australia Football 2017 tall

    (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

    I left the club I was watching the game at in good spirits but the sight of a discarded bicycle disturbed me. Everywhere I walk in Sydney these days I’m forever tripping over these silver and yellow bicycles.

    People leave them any old place, dumped near the footpath or leant against buildings. Is this just a Sydney thing?

    Someone will do themselves a mischief on one of these bikes one day.

    There was plenty of mischief in the FFA Cup quarter final between Heidelberg United and Adelaide United on Wednesday night.

    We were treated to a bit of old-fashioned aggro between the two teams that spilled over the sideline.

    There’s nothing wrong with a few hotheads letting off a bit of steam in a knockout game. It makes for great television. Which makes me wonder why this wasn’t the Fox feature game.

    Heidelberg’s Olympic Village looks great on TV with its rickety old grandstand and a surface with as many bare patches as…somebody I know’s head. I felt that an NPL team hosting an A-League club would be the more compelling of the two games to watch.

    Sydney FC beat Melbourne City 2-0 at Leichhardt Oval, featuring an impressive goal by Alex Brosque. Controlling it with his head then deftly chipping the goalkeeper was classic Brosque.

    Dare I say, classic centre-forward play.

    The term ‘centre-forward’ cropped up during Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in the European Champions League. Tottenham’s Harry Kane scored a double including a brilliant effort in the first half where he literally tossed a couple of defenders to the ground before smashing it past the keeper.

    Harry Kane Tottenham English Premier League EPL Football 2017

    (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    The commentator called Harry Kane a classic centre-forward. That term is a throwback to the old 2-3-5 combination in vogue when I started playing (a few years ago,) and brings back memories of players like Peter Osgood, Gerd Muller and Mario Kempes. The world needs more centre-forwards, less strikers.

    The most notable result in the UCL was Barcelona’s 3-0 drubbing of title hopeful Juventus.

    It was nice to see ex-Socceroo goalkeeper, Brad Jones, playing for Feyenoord although not so nice to see him concede four goals against Manchester City. All the goals were pretty much unstoppable though.

    Manchester City continued their good form in the Premier League with a 6-0 thumping of Watford.

    They have scored 15 goals in their last three matches and Sergio Aguero has scored five of them, including a hat-trick against Watford.

    Manchester United joined City at the top of the table after a 4-0 win against Everton.
    Aaron Mooy had a strong game in Huddersfield’s 1-1 draw against Leicester City although I was disappointed he was paid out by fans for his resemblance to Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series.

    Surely these fans were at the wrong venue: the Leicester Lupins were playing the Huddersfield Hags in the Quidditch stadium next door.

    In Australia, the NPL Championship quarter finals were decided. The semi-finals are:
    Heidelberg United versus APIA Leichhardt
    Edgeworth Eagles versus Brisbane Strikers

    Personality of the week: Sergio Aguero
    Team of the Week: Matildas

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • September 19th 2017 @ 8:49am
      chris said | September 19th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      Thanks for the article Paul. I also got involved with girls football because of my daughters : )
      The improvement I’ve seen over the last 5 years has been significant. This is a really special team and their strike power is second to none in the world. Would love to see the US team come out for a tour as well.

    • September 19th 2017 @ 10:00am
      Midfielder said | September 19th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      Mate that was a very enjoyable read …. thanks for putting it up.

    • September 19th 2017 @ 11:53am
      Ken Spacey said | September 19th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

      The “Bend it” reference is quite valid. That film featured at the Sydney Film Festival where some folks went to get away from the impact of the world cup which was 2002 Korea/Japan where it was in our agreeable time zone for the first time ever. Venues opened up as temporary hubs to watch WC after work but at the film festivals women started to become aware of football after watching the film and then started watching the world cup instead. So for some the alternative to watching the WC brought them to a love of the beautiful game! Didn’t do the sales of fancy French mustard any harm either! The potential for Oz is enormous as having so many top women’s teams that we have a strong relationship with here offers so much. Brazil, England, Japan, US etc. FFA need to be more creative and realise the asset they have in this talented and appealing squad.

    • September 19th 2017 @ 11:57am
      Nemesis said | September 19th 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

      Now the money is starting to flow into women’s football.

      Some really interesting information, including:
      – the women’s game is the FFA’s second-fastest growing commercial revenue segment behind community
      – Westfield naming rights deal with W-League and Matildas is believed to be the richest single partnership in Australian women’s sport
      – major new W-League partnership was in the works and would be announced in the next few weeks
      – In many respects the Matildas are now the FFA’s leading brand

      Women’s sponsorship surge a sign of things to come, says FFA

      Full story:

      • September 19th 2017 @ 12:18pm
        Sydneysider said | September 19th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

        Great news Nemesis. Really good for football. Matilda’s are our best chance of winning a football world cup at the moment.

      • September 19th 2017 @ 12:42pm
        Midfielder said | September 19th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

        agree great news.

      • September 19th 2017 @ 12:53pm
        Nemesis said | September 19th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

        Agree it’s a positive story for both women’s football & the work being done by the FFA.

        So, I guarantee it will never be printed in the mainstream media, where every journo seems keen to focus purely on sticking their boots into the sport & the administrators.

        I don’t say the football media need to be cheerleaders. Just report the successes with the same enthusiasm that they report the failures.

        • September 19th 2017 @ 1:34pm
          Sydneysider said | September 19th 2017 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

          It would be amazing if the FFA was able to pull off hosting the 2023 women’s world cup. When do they announce the host of that tournament? Is it this year sometime?

    • September 19th 2017 @ 11:59am
      pacman said | September 19th 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

      Another enjoyable read Paul. Keep up the good work.

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