FFA makes clever choice with Gustavsson appointment

Football Federation Australia announced the appointment of Tony Gustavsson on Tuesday night, as head coach of the Matildas for the next four years.

The 47-year-old Swede will take up the role from the beginning of next year, with the chance to lead Australia’s most loved sporting team to World Cup success on home soil in 2023.

Before then he will have to prepare the current crop of Matildas stars for an Olympic campaign in Tokyo next year and an Asian Cup in India in 2022.

It is of little doubt, Gustavsson’s assignment is a very difficult one.

With four major tournaments (the final one being the Paris Olympics in 2024) in four years there will be a pressure to perform, as the FFA continue to prioritise women’s football in this country, to resurrect the overall outlook of the game.

But is he the right person for the job?

Initial impressions are positive, and on paper, the FFA seems to have made an astute appointment.

Gustavsson’s CV is well rounded with a deep knowledge of the women’s game.

His greatest achievements include winning two World Cups in 2015 and 2019, as an assistant to Jill Ellis for the US Women’s National Team (USWNT).

He was lauded as the “brains” behind the success of the USWNT in the subsequent World Cup victories, as his analytical and tactical execution was instrumental to their setup.

The newly-announced head coach of the Matildas also has an Olympic Gold Medal to his name, as an assistant in a USWNT squad led by Pia Sundhage in 2012.

In club coaching, he guided Swedish club Tyresö FF to the 2014 UEFA Women’s Champions League Final where they lost to German side VFL Wolfsburg.

Gustavsson’s extensive experience and familiarity in women’s football, his proven track record of success in major tournaments, alongside his willingness to maximise the potential of the current women’s squad, ticked a lot of boxes for the FFA and the panel charged with filling the vacant Matildas role.

“Having worked closely with some of the best female footballers and coaches in the world and, through his time with the USWNT, Tony has developed an excellent understanding of what it takes to prepare for and perform in the intense, high-expectation environments of major international tournaments,” FFA CEO James Johnson said.

“We believe that in Tony, we have appointed a coach who will not only surpass the benchmarks and criteria we set as an organisation, but the standards that are expected by our players, football community and fans.

“Throughout the process it was evident that Tony is eager to buy in to what we are working to build with the Westfield Matildas – a uniquely Australian team with a strong identity that is recognised as world class.”

While his impressive CV will contribute to the Matildas’ fortunes on the field, in his opening press conference he exuded enthusiasm for the project and presented himself as a passionate, colourful manager which will likely benefit the team off the pitch.

“To balance my passion (for the game and people), I also need to work with what I call ‘love and joy’,” Gustavsson said.

“Passion, love and joy.

“Love in the sense of loving the game, love to work with people, love the people for who they are but see them for who they can become.

“I want to create a culture where we embrace differences and work together every day to get one day better as an individual and as a team. Hopefully, together with the staff – I talked to the staff this morning and said, ‘without the staff, I’m nothing. I need the staff; I need a team behind the team; we need each other’ – and if everyone can bring their piece to the puzzle and we, together, make that puzzle beautiful, I think we can create a culture where everyone feels important and included.”

The question, of course, is how far can the Swede take this team?

He has spoken about having a proactive part in the process of producing the next batch of Matildas and with a governing body eager to invest in women’s football, it is a promising development for the long-term future.

But I’m sure the FFA realises the enormity of the upcoming World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

It very well may be Australia’s best ever chance to win football’s biggest prize and optimisation for that tournament should be the main priority.

Will Gustavsson be able to deal with the expectation of a nation on his back at the World Cup?

The man himself doesn’t believe that will be an issue.

“I’ve experienced a lot of pressure throughout my career, both on the men’s and women’s side,” he said.

“I’ve been in that pressure cooker and know what it takes to deliver, when it means the most.”

As always, the proof will be in the pudding, but for now there is cautious optimism amongst Australian football circles around the appointment, which is refreshing to say the least.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

CUPRA and Football Australia ties remain strong

Pioneering electronic car brand CUPRA will remain Football Australia’s official automotive partner after a strong two-year collaboration.

As part of the deal, the Spain-based car company will remain the official car of the Subway Socceroos and Commbank Matildas.

The re-signing highlights the forward trajectory Football Australia is experiencing across all levels, led largely by its work in women’s and grassroots football over the past 12 months.

When CUPRA began its association with Football Australia in 2022, it promised to attract audiences through its own storytelling techniques and commitment to inspiring change; both in automotives and in football.

Whether it’s illuminating its garages and dealerships with the green and gold of Australia’s national teams, or providing immersive commercials that captivates audiences, CUPRA has contributed greatly to Australian football’s recent success.

CUPRA has already begun their new era of collaboration with Football Australia, helping the organisation with its equality and diversity initiatives.

Earlier this month, CUPRA unveiled its Born PROUD vehicle at the Sydney Mardi Gras, featured alongside Football Australia’s float in the parade.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson led the plaudits, speaking via the Football Australia website.

“It’s fantastic to have CUPRA extend their partnership with Football Australia, allowing both parties to build upon the great work that has been achieved both on and off the field over recent years to drive forward Australian football,” Johnson enthused.

“CUPRA as a brand and their workforce have an unwavering passion for football, and it’s their global approach to business which mirrors so perfectly how our national teams engage with world football.

“We are excited to see CUPRA remain part of the Football Australia family and look forward to seeing what we can continue to accomplish as we move forward on this journey together.”

Based in Barcelona, CUPRA is leading the way for the electrification of light vehicles, and its partnership with Australian football has no doubt assisted its entry into the Australian car market.

Prior to 2022, CUPRA had built strong connections with local club FC Barcelona, and this has formed the basis for its strong commercial presence globally.

“Their progressive brand, incredible content and storytelling, plus authentic passion for football, locally and globally, has created a huge impact,” Football Australia Head of Commercial and Events, Tom Rischbieth, added via media release.

“We look forward to continuing this journey together as we look ahead to critical games for our beloved CommBank Matildas, Subway Socceroos and many of our Youth National Teams in 2024.”

CUPRA Australia Director Ben Wilks concluded with his own reflections on the new deal.

“Our renewal caps off two years of strong engagement and outstanding results for not only CUPRA, but for football in Australia as a whole,” he stated via press release.

“We’re delighted to see how that partnership continues to grow as we roll out a range of new initiatives and activations in this pivotal year for Australian football.”

Partnering with an innovative, future-thinking brand such as CUPRA almost fits Football Australia’s vision like a glove.

The success of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has illuminated young people across the country, which has Football Australia looking towards creating a sustainable future for the sport.

Alongside a brand pioneering sustainability in its own industry, Football Australia’s vision and output will continue to make a recognisable impact on Australian people.

Football Queensland one step closer to gender parity

Football Queensland have released numbers for the 2023 year that show a steep rise in female participation across all age groups following the incredible Women’s World Cup held on home soil.

In 2023, the split for Football Queensland participation was set at 69.8% Male and 30.2% Female which represents a hefty increase from 25.5% participation in 2022. The federation have been adamant that the 50/50 gender parity goal can be achieved by the start of the 2027 season which matches Football Australia’s Gender Equality Action Plan.

In the 2023-2026 Football Queensland Strategic Plan, the federation recognised that they had to transform their Women and Girls Strategy by integrating it with FQ’s Strategic Infrastructure Plan and Schools Strategy to supercharge growth.

The plan mentioned that there will be new facilities in place for boys and girls teams built in Brisbane’s North which will deliver state-of-the-art playing fields, a clubhouse, and community spaces.

This ambition to fast track growth means that FQ are putting an emphasis on creating the best possible foundation for ongoing growth on their path to 50/50 participation. This consists of improving numbers in coaching, volunteering and refereeing for women and girls.

Quickly, the federation are seeing results in many different sectors of the women’s game, most recently announcing that there was an incredible 81.4% participation increase recorded at women and girls festivals and programs in 2023.

FQ also has an ongoing commitment to supporting the progression of female coaches which was seen in the 2023 success that resulted in a 28% increase in female coach numbers for the year.

The next step for Football Queensland is ensuring the up and coming talent in the women’s game is properly developed by making use of the FQ Academy QAS program. The program has been a major success and has produced players for Australia’s national teams, including eight players in the CommBank Matildas squad for the 2023 WWC.

The strategic plan key targets outlined that FQ are ensuring there will be at least 25 Advanced female technical directors and female technical staff in key roles across Queensland by 2026.

This drive to utilise the success of the 2023 WWC along with strategic planning and tactical investment in the women’s game has allowed the federation to see enormous growth so quickly.

They are well on their way to hitting important KPI’s, similar to the 50/50 gender parity by 2027 and 62,000 club based female participants by 2026 which signify the change in modern football.

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