The FIFA Women’s World Cup has come to end, bringing a close to the biggest and possibly most important month in Australian football history.
Almost two million people flocked into stadiums in Australia and New Zealand while millions more were captivated from home as new stars were born on the pitch.
The Matildas were a central part of the storm that was created around the World Cup, engaging an entire nation and drawing people to the stadia, to live sites across the country and to their TV screens every time the Green and Gold was on.
What the Matildas created will surely be felt for some time. Never before has Australia quite got behind a national team like this – not the Socceroos, not the Boomers, the Opals, the Diamonds.
Perhaps one of the most exciting things about this World Cup is that it’s only the beginning for the country. While the action will be missed, it now has the chance to open doors in the game in Australia that might have seemed permanently locked prior.
Fans of all genders and ages have been opened up to the game. They’ve been filling up stores, buying jerseys and merchandise, researching players and learning about the game with each passing moment.
Australia doesn’t have a huge sports fan culture in the way many European countries do, or the United States. Even in Melbourne ahead of a marquee AFL fixture, you rarely see streets filled with match goers clad in jerseys and merchandise for hours before kick-off.
We have seen that here, particularly for the final with English and Spanish fans painting the Sydney streets in their colours before changing canvases to the stands of Stadium Australia.
This tournament has created football fans for life. Memories have been made that will never be forgotten, and for so many this will be the first step of their football fandom.
The next step is right around the corner, with less than two months to go until the beginning of the Liberty A-League Women season, the league where all 23 members of the Matildas squad have played, and the league where the next 23 are ready and waiting.
Football fans in the West have been given a treat over the last 12 months. Western United entered the Liberty A-League last season and brought the supporters on a magical journey to the Grand Final.
Fan support wasn’t unnoticed. Player performances stood out. A whole new world of football stars and generational football fans was born in Victoria’s fastest growing and most diverse area.
Moving beyond the World Cup and into the new season, the excitement will only increase tenfold. Western United’s second season in the Liberty A-League is already set to be bigger than the last.
Anyone that enjoyed the World Cup need only look at Western United’s squad for more inspiration.
Mark Torcaso has been announced as the next Philippines women’s national team head coach after their stunning World Cup debut – one that also featured Western United stars Angie Beard and Jaclyn Sawicki.
Representing their families, friends, their country and our Club, Angie and Jackie guided the Philippines to a thrilling, first-ever win at a World Cup, and now Mark will add to a growing history.
While she missed out on a place at this World Cup, Chloe Logarzo remains one of the most influential Matildas and with a clean bill of health, she is set to take over the Liberty A-League.
Looking to the next generation, Alana Cerne and Kahli Johnson are both Future Matildas and will each have dreams of reaching similar heights on a global stage. They are ours to celebrate in the West and they are ours to throw our support behind as they strive to surpass their ambitions.
Again, every single player on the Matildas’ World Cup roster developed through the Liberty A-League. Cerne and Johnson represent that next generation, the talented stars, role models and trail blazers of tomorrow that young fans in the West can get behind today.
United States World Cup-winning striker Jess McDonald was United’s first ever goal scorer and remains the Club’s first true icon, someone who will always be welcomed in the Green and Black family.
Women’s football isn’t ‘women’s football’ anymore. It’s just football. And it’s exciting, entertaining and inspiring for fans of any generation.
So trade in those Spain beanies for Western United ones. Keep the England scarves in your drawer and grab a Western United one. Add a Western United jersey to your haul of Brazil, France and Italy kits from this World Cup.
When that first game comes in mid-October, get yourself out to support Australia’s best. Just as young fans many years ago would have watched Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord and co. play for the first time, you can be part of getting behind the football heroes of the future.
Keep up the passion, the curiosity and the desire to continue witnessing change and making a difference. Bring your Matildas gear, your Western United merchandise to the games and show us how much you love this game.
Because at the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to. We love this game. And we want everyone to love it.
The dream began for Western United last season. The Matildas and this World Cup have kept the dream alive as we fall more in love with this beautiful game. And we’re not waking up from this dream any time soon.