As Australian women’s football continues to recover from the horrible stories we have heard over the past few weeks about harassment and bullying, it is worthwhile remembering that by in large, girl’s and women’s football is a safe and welcoming environment for all.
There is no doubt there are ugly issues that lurk underneath that must be addressed for the greater good. Everyone needs to be heard and facts – along with evidence – must be unearthed in order to obtain justice for victims of any abhorrent behaviours, as well as to provide a framework to protect all participants in the future.
However we should never let anything take away from what football truly gives us.
Sport and especially football has the power to provide hope to people in their darkest hours, it provides warmth to the coldest of winters and importantly, it gives everyone the chance to be part of a team. The one team being the football family.
Weekend winter mornings around the nation are precious. The sea of smiling young faces. The smell of sizzling sausages. The sound of laughter and cheering as our most cherished run around a football field.
Those treasured moments make for some of our best memories.
Don’t forget the excitement of a W-League game. Donning our favourite colours. Pulling into an intimate suburban ground. Grabbing a fabulous seat as our team struts their stuff. Grabbing an autograph or photo post game.
Those magical – and innocent – moments will still be there.
The 2023 Women’s World Cup is going to be spectacular. It will bring the nation together. It will give women the grandest of stages to showcase their talent and their power to unite fans from all walks of life.
So many in women’s football talk about how the game has helped their every day lives. Allowing them to express themselves, feel part of something bigger.
This is for players, parents, coaches, referees, media, volunteers… in fact pretty much everyone.
There are over 120,000 registered female footballers who participate every weekend. There are nearly 8000 female coaches, 1300 female referees and 11,000 female volunteers.
That is a lot of people who willingly participate in the beautiful game.
The number of training sessions and games amounts to thousands each year. The number of complaints of harassment or bullying are relatively small compared to the millions of interactions girls and women have in football each year.
That isn’t to say we should ignore the problems, absolutely not. What it means, is by and large girls and women are safe in football. We shouldn’t forget that.
The events of the last few weeks have cast a dark cloud over all that is beautiful about football.
Many community clubs around the country are worried about how the current issues will impact participation rates in 2022. They are worried about how sponsors will feel about getting involved. Football is already a costly exercise.
We need to keep telling the positive stories that are out there. And there are plenty.
We need to hear about Ashlie Crofts who grew up playing for Blacktown Spartans, who went to Canberra United but is now playing for local team the Western Sydney Wanderers – her favourite club growing up – for the upcoming season.
We need to hear about Caitlin Pickett, the Geelong girl who started out at local community club Surfside Waves, before going through the NPLW system at Geelong Galaxy then winning a scholarship in America. She is now part of Western United’s inaugural women’s team.
We need to hear about Diana Piculovski, who plays for Preston Lions in the VPLW. She has been at the club her whole life and is now striving to take them to the top tier of Victorian football.
We need to hear about Courtney Nevin. Who started her football journey at Oakville Ravens in western Sydney. She eventually played for the Wanderers and is now part of the Matildas squad.
We need to hear about all those young ladies who get to empower themselves through football.
Football at the moment is broke , but the people in it have the power to fix it. It is worth it.
Remember that women’s football is worth it.