Everything in my world has been building towards this year’s World Cup. Questions of when I move interstate, when I resign from work, and how long I agree to other work opportunities have all been answered with this tournament in mind.
Whilst less extreme, I imagine a lot of other football-loving Australians and New Zealanders are brimming with excitement at the opportunity to watch the world’s best in our own backyard.
But here’s the thing: We might not have the very best playing here.
I have such a hunger to see the world’s best competing on our pitches, but it’s time to make peace that players will miss this year’s World Cup for reasons other than injury or poor form.
This tournament could be known as one where two European giants, Spain and France, played second-string teams, leaving their biggest stars at home, and the reigning Olympic gold medalist Canada is in a public feud with their association over pay after funding being slashed.
Meanwhile, our federation in Australia has been sprouting “legacy” since we were announced as co-host. It’s an important thing to consider, and whilst most of this has translated to what it could reap at home, facilities, sponsorship and boost in participation – we could have a longer lasting legacy on the global game.
It’s also perhaps serendipitous this is happening when four years ago coaches were sacked following an investigation into the Matildas team environment. However you sit in that situation, there’s little doubt the form of some players now starring in green and gold suggests changes have seen players once on the ‘outer’ now thriving.
Since 2019, the Matildas have had an injection of fearlessness to play the best, and win, which shows those tough decisions are now reaping results as we approach the World Cup with the confidence we could beat anyone in our path.
Whilst Matildas’ players didn’t publicly revolt, nor am I suggesting they would’ve done, they demonstrate when the working environment is healthy, it translates to improved standards across the board.
If our World Cup is a legacy of protest and strike action to improve women’s football in their respective countries, sign me up. I’m sold.
Our World Cup could be the stage to encourage equality and hail in change for players to be working in a healthy environment where they’re respected and supported. There’s perhaps no greater legacy we could leave.
In case you missed it, here’s some links to fill in the gaps for what’s happening:
The latest developments in Spain, France, Canada and Japan: https://sport.optus.com.au/news/all/os54054/gegenpod-wwc-spain-france-renard-japan-canada-womens-game-concerns-issues-inequality
Spain explainer: https://www.goal.com/en-au/news/explained-spain-womens-team-mutiny-why-players-resigned/blt64e6bb94121c2d5d
France thread: https://twitter.com/frawnts/status/1629497595348353024