The Matildas have been riding the crest of a wave since their heartbreaking, and controversial, penalty shoot-out quarter final defeat at the Rio Olympics. Fresh off their impressive Tournament of Nations victory in the US, they hosted football super power Brazil in front of two packed houses in Penrith and Newcastle. A sign of the support their efforts have garnered evident in the fact that on the same day they attracted 15,089 fans to Pepper Stadium in Penrith an AFL Final across town in Homebush attracted just 14,865.
One man moved by the sight of the Matildas playing in front of full houses is The Pinch Hitters World Football Correspondent Spyro Lambas. “It was amazing scenes seeing 15,000+ crowds in Sydney on Saturday and Newcastle on Tuesday night,” Lambas enthused. “It just shows you how far women’s football has come in this country” he said. Lambas credits the strength of the W-League and the Matildas recent results for the strong turnout. “We have a good League and an even stronger National Team representing us,” Lambas explained, “no wonder fans are flocking in record numbers to see our team in action”.
The sight of the Matildas beating one of the world’s superpowers in front of full houses combined with a new wage agreement in the W-League to illustrate how bright the long term future can be. Declaring it, “The start of a new era for professional female footballers in Australia,” FFA CEO David Gallop announced that average wages in the W-League would more than double. “W-League players deserve the pay rise,” Gallop told assembled reporters. “They have been the trail blazers for women’s sport in Australia.”
It’s a move that Lambas thinks will not only improve the conditions for Australian players at home but with nine W-League Clubs expected to increase spending from $450,000 to $1.62mil it will increase their ability to attract marque players too. As a result it will give young Australian players an opportunity to secure opportunities abroad. “This will give them a better a stage to prove themselves,” Lambas said. “Scouts from all over the world, from bigger Leagues will be coming to Australia to sign our players.”
With 13 of the squad that faced Brazil already plying their trade overseas, increased exposure only means exciting times lay ahead. With Matilda stars now presented with an opportunity to six-figure-sums as a result of the agreement, the beginnings of a genuine pathway are being laid for the next generation of Lisa De Vanna’s and Steph Catley’s to make a genuine living out of the game.
Currently ranked 6th in the world, recent victories over World Champions USA, Asian Champions Japan and three victories in a row over Brazil have them aiming higher. “We have a goal as a team to become world champions and win Olympic Medals,” midfielder Caitlin Foord told Fox Sports News. “This is just the start of that journey we are just trying to get ourselves ready for when that time comes,” she stressed.
The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav’s Football correspondent Spyro Lambas think they have a real shot in the 2019 World Cup in France. “This is the best we have seen them play in a long, long time,” Lambas said. “Regularly beating sides ranked higher than them, they could definitely win the World Cup,” he said before adding, “as long as they can get past their nemesis the penalty shootout which has been their downfall at their last two tournaments.”
Fans in Australia won’t have to wait long to see the next chapter in the Matilda’s incredible tale. Coming to Melbourne and Geelong in November will be the 13th ranked China, the two teams met in a thrilling encounter in March, and the Aussies are sure to face a stern test. If watching two of the World’s Best teams isn’t enticing enough, Lambas suggests there is another reason that Victorian’s should turn out in large numbers to watch the two match series. “We are hoping to win the rights to host the 2023 World Cup,” Lambas imploring big crowds turn out so that we convince FIFA to bring the world to our shores. “So that we can start building the game even more over the next six years,” Lambas passionately implored.
If the last week in Sydney and Newcastle was anything to go by, not only are we a chance to draw big crowds to the event, we are every chance of winning it too.