Look. We know what the result was on Saturday arvo. The stats look alright, but Chile were able to put them away and held the Matildas at bay the second half to win 3-2. I could go on a rant about tactical nous and adaptability, to rant and rave about our lack of apparent defensive depth. But I’m not. If you want that you can flick over to The Women’s Game and look at my three things article. Right now, I’m going to touch on my favourite part of the game instead. The experience.
I love football because not only are there magic moments on the field, but for those off it. The experience of being in a crowd, where people are chanting and are all in. Where there is a sense of family, even if you know no one else there. When you wear those colours you’re apart of something special. That’s what I love.
Matildas v Chile had this.
Upon arriving at the game, it felt totally different than 12 months ago against Brazil. Against Brazil, it felt like the beginning of something. That we were on the cusp of having something special, where the Matildas aren’t just the women Socceroos, or just that Sam Kerr might do a backflip if she scores. This weekend we moved up to that level we were hoping for. There were Matildas shirts everywhere you looked. People actually knew the players, and their first names, positions and the position they’ve also played but probably shouldn’t for the Matildas. The crowd was invested in this team and game. It’s no longer just a spectacle, but something bigger than a lone match or single opportunity. All this in 12 months. The contrast is one to drool at for a long time Matildas fan. It’s something to be celebrated.
(📸 Rachel Bach/By The White Line)
During the match, it was south side of the stadium who stole my heart. The Chileans. There were drums, whistles and voices raised. Chile getting a win, the celebrations after the sides third goal, sweetens an otherwise bitter moment for this Matildas fan. Not only were the Chileans behind the side, but when they were behind early, the south side rallied and continued to egg their team on. I’m looking forward to when we can have a chant off with these guys, with songs half as good as their Chi-Chi-Chile chant (I’m a firm believer we need one beyond “let’s go Matildas, let’s go” and “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” guys, but we can work on that).
After the match. I’m not one usually to stick around and ask for signatures or photos. Usually I hide from the photos, and try to act too cool for it all. But this time I stuck around, thanks largely to my mate’s mission to get Emily Van Egmond’s photo (that I unintentionally photobombed, sorry Chloe!). I’m glad I did though. To see these players stick around for close to an hour after the game, signing anything that was thrown at them and taking selfies I imagine that left their cheek muscles sore afterwards from all the cheesing. That this side just lost a match many saw them as clear favourites to win, didn’t matter. It’s clear this game is for the fans, and the Matildas each remembered this, even as they were dragged off by their keepers saying “only one more signature, then we’ve really got to go”. Also I managed a to get a few signatures on my new Matildas scarf, plus a photo with my favourite player, Elise Kellond-Knight, which I’m still flipping out about (yup just call me a basic soccer girl now go on, I’ve got no regrets and it’s totally worth it).
What’s just as cool, is this experience of football being more than a game is translated into the local game. I love going to to the different grounds across Hobart and getting to see this side of football in my home town. By being at the grounds I get to see people who are all behind their team. My favourite part is speaking to people at the grounds, normally about their kid or family, and about their dreams for the game, for their players, team and more broadly. Honestly that’s probably why I love being around football and my incentive to write up as many matches as I can get my hands on, for the stories, experiences and tales told off them.
In 12 months, the atmosphere and Matildas games have gone up a level. Local games continue to be the heart beat that supports this. Support for the game is growing and growing. So whilst I may want to feel miserable about what played out on the pitch, let’s celebrate this victory off it. Let’s celebrate the achievement of growing support for the game, so little girls grow up knowing there is a bloody good team for them to play on and for everyone else to know there is a family by a football field, who are just as fanatical about the game as they are. Let’s celebrate by coming up with a better Matildas chant too, maybe?