August 17 – In the wake of Australia’s elimination from the Women’s World Cup, Matildas star Sam Kerr (pictured) has called for more investment in Australian women’s football.
At the moment that the entire country connected with the Women’s World Cup and Australians rallied behind the Matildas, the team’s joyride at these finals came to an end with a 3-1 semi-final defeat to European champions England, but a sense of pride prevails and amid all the disappointment of not making a maiden World Cup final, Kerr demanded increased funding for the women’s game.
“I can only speak for the Matildas but, we need funding in our development, we need funding in our grassroots. We need funding everywhere,” said Kerr.
“You know, comparison to other sports isn’t really good enough. Hopefully, this tournament kind of changes that because that’s the legacy you leave, not what you do on the pitch. The legacy is what you do off the pitch. I think the way the country has got behind us and the television ratings, all of that, this isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime.”
In the 63rd minute, Kerr levelled the score in the first match of the tournament that she started. The striker’s fitness became the focal point of attention for weeks in Australia. As a talisman, her image fronted ads, buildings and other public places.
As her fitness gradually improved, she played an hour against France in the quarter-finals before delivering a sumptuous goal against the Lionesses that allowed Australians to dream of playing the tournament’s showpiece match against Spain. Ultimately, they were left to rue what could have been. In 2021, the Matildas reached the final of the Olympic Games, but lost against Canada.
Australia manager Tony Gustavsson said that his team and Australian football had “maximized” what they could do with the resources at their disposal. “It’s bigger than 90 minutes of football,” said Gustavsson. “We’re very disappointed that we lost, but hopefully we won something else. We won the heart and the passion for this team in this country.
“But I agree with the players. This is not the end of something, this needs to be the start of something. And with that comes money as well.”
England and Australia come from very different football backgrounds, but the success of the Matildas, Gustavsson and Kerr believe should prompt investment, be it from the government, corporate sponsors and broadcasters. Before the Women’s World Cup, Football Australia rolled out a legacy program that will entail $357 million to foster a better football environment across the board.
“We are right now maximizing the resources we have, whether it’s registered players or whether it’s the work we’re doing at clubs locally, whether it’s the grassroots football, whether it’s the return on investment. But let’s invest more and be genuine contenders for medals and tournaments moving forward as well. This is now the second semifinal, two tournaments in a row, the Olympic Games and this one. But right now we’re not happy about being in the semifinal. We’re disappointed not to be in the final.”
The legacy of the tournament will come into greater focus after the final whistle, but first, the Matildas will bow out of the finals in the third-place playoff against Sweden.
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