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Opinion

Thank you, Matildas, for what has been an exhilarating ride

(Photo by Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
4th August, 2021
8

A record TV audience of over 2.3 million Australians tuned in on Channel Seven on Monday night to watch Australia play Sweden in the semi-finals at the Olympic Games. There were many more watching the game online via 7Plus.

Despite a 1-0 loss, the TV audience underlined how much our Matildas have captivated Australians over the past fortnight.

Both football and non-football fans have been enthralled and engrossed as our premier women’s football team battled the world’s best on one of sports grandest stages.

Tonight, Australia will play powerhouse USA in a third place playoff and a bronze medal is on the line. The worldwide TV audience for this game will be phenomenal.

If we win, it will be our first ever football medal at an Olympic Games.

But even if we lose, the Matildas have still taken us on what has been exhilarating ride.

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For the last few years, they have been one of Australia’s favourite sporting teams. A team that many Australians relate to on an emotional level. They even measure this kind of stuff!

While superstar Sam Kerr has led the way, the likes of Ellie Carpenter, Teagan Micah and Mary Fowler have all made a name for themselves in Japan and will carry on this legacy going forward.

While women’s sport has always been a political football, no pun intended, the 22 ladies that have represented Australia in Japan have shown why the Matildas are so loved.

The amazing skill of Kerr and Fowler to net clutch goals, the athleticism of Micah to make crucial saves, the spirit the entire team showed to come back against Great Britain and fight all the way against Sweden, shows these ladies are more than just a political statement.

The back story of each member of the team tells us something.

Fiesty winger Hayley Raso was wondering if she would ever walk again back in August of 2018. A collision while playing in the National Women’s Soccer League for Portland saw her break her back, fracturing three vertebrae.

Yet there she is in Japan flying down the flanks chasing every ball until the end.

Tameka Yallop and her wife Kirsty gave birth to their son Harley last August. She juggles being a mum while playing for Australia. Furthermore, when she isn’t wearing the green and gold or changing nappies, Yallop – who has master’s degrees in marketing and business – works for a professional services firm.

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Young midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross has travelled between multiple states in her 19 years, as she tried to build her footballing career. This meant long periods of time away from loved ones, and the need to continually make new friends despite being a shy teenager.

Every Matilda has a story to tell.

The story will not finish tomorrow, with a World Cup on home soil in 2023, the next two years is going to be an exciting chapter for Australian women’s football, which incidentally is celebrating its centenary this year.

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Little did they know on September 24, 1921, when North Brisbane played South Brisbane at the Gabba, that over two million Australians would be cheering on our women’s football team 100 years later on sport’s biggest stage.

There have been 212 women who have been capped by Australia over the past 42 years, there are others who have represented our country who haven’t been officially recognised, like the 1975 Australian XI who played in the first ever Asian Cup, but all of the Matildas who take the field in Tokyo tonight will be following the path built by those who have gone before them.

It will be an occasion of celebration, it’s taken 100 years but women’s football down under has arrived!

So tonight at 6pm is a great chance for us to thank our Matildas for putting football on the map. Tell your family and friends about it. Let’s get to three million!

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