“It Won’t Change the Game”: The Plain Truth About Matilda’s Mania

Australia rightly got into Matildas mania last month as the Women's World Cup broke all records possible.

Both nations were there in large numbers to support their teams at the 2023 Women's World Cup, co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Ticket sales exceeded expectations by almost 500,000 and the tournament generated more than A$888 million for the first time, breaking even for the first time.

That's not even counting the record viewership, including 11.15 million who watched the semi-final between the Matildas and England, the highest-rated TV show since 2001, when OzTAM records were kept.

Even the Matildas third-place play-off against Sweden and the final between Spain and England drew more than two million viewers nationally.

The tournament was a resounding success and many pundits said the game had changed for the better.

But when I talk about Fox Sports, The backsideformer Socceroo Robbie Slater said there was still work to be done.

“It was a wonderful event. Overall everyone has played their part and the Matildas have brought so much joy to so many young players and young people who have never really been involved with the game, it's fair game for them,” Slater said.

“But it's not going to change the game in this country.

“The game requires a lot of work.”

Candice Warner interjected, saying she believes the Matildas' success at the World Cup inspired young girls and boys to get involved in the game.

Slater said that was the case, but he still felt the game had a long way to go in Australia.

“I've spoken so much on the radio and in so much media where people have said, ‘This is going to change football in this country'… I've been around as a player for far too long, I've been in the media for far too long, I.” “I've heard it before,” Slater continued.

“Whether it was Maradona in 1993, whether we won the world championship in 2006, whether it was John Aloisi's penalty – it was a party.

“We have to stop having a football party in this country because when the party is over everyone goes home. All the politicians were there and all that and all that and great, they gave a scholarship for women's sport – I think that's great.

“But I'll tell you what needs help. For example, I want some government money to go to the A-League Women's. There the Matildas were born. All of these players came from the A-League Women's.”

The “government money” Slater spoke of was a $200 million government pledge for equipment and dressing rooms. However, it seems that it applies to all women's sports.

Announcing the fund, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the Matildas, along with the Diamonds and the Wallaroos, had captured the hearts of the nation and “changed Australian sport forever” and that this momentum must “continue for generations”.

However, due to the success of the Matildas, football fans demanded more funding as football becomes more popular most played team sport in Australia.

Sydney Morning Herald football reporter Vince Rugari tweeted: “There are no compelling arguments not to increase funding for football.” There is already a shortage of facilities across the country to meet the demands of grassroots sport, particularly those that are women-friendly Dressing rooms – and that's before we even think about the WWC participation boom or the demand for high-performance athletes.”

The following day, after the prime minister announced the funding, Rugari said: “Other sports ask for funding and they get it. Football asks for money and other sports get it.”

He also clarified, “To be clear – and I think it's very obvious, but it seems some people need to hear it anyway – no one is opposed to ‘women's sport' getting more funding overall.” Literally Literally nobody. But there is a historic imbalance in football that needs to be addressed and now is the time.”

Slater said he tipped the Matildas to win the tournament, adding that they played exceptionally well throughout.

He said he believed Australia were “good enough to win”.

However, he said the France game “taught us a lot”.

“They've never reached a semifinal, but I just think they could have done better,” Slater said.

“If Sam (Kerr) wasn't hurt, who knows. If she had been fully fit throughout the tournament…”

He also said he was now convinced coach Tony Gustavsson could have stuck to the same formula at the end of the tournament, meaning Kerr would have been substituted off the bench.

After losing to Sweden in the bronze medal game, Kerr said, “It's a dream come true.

“The way the fans have supported us, the way the girls have behaved – we have shown to the world, but also within Australia, that we are a footballing nation.

“It's up to the fans. We didn't get it right, but hopefully we continued to inspire people for many years to come.”

Midfield star Katrina Gorry added after the semi-final defeat by England: “I really believe now that we are a footballing country.

“Every nation that was here, not just us, everyone felt it. Everyone saw it. Football in Australia is about to change forever. I think it's very special to be a part of it.”

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