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Matildas mark significant milestone

Football Federation Australia (FFA) has honoured the first ever women’s international match by congratulating that team alongside the current Westfield Matildas.

It’s been 40 years since the Matildas took part in their first full international, which was on October 6th 1979 at Seymour Shaw Park in Sydney, playing in a 2-2 draw with New Zealand.

It paved the way for future women players to get involved, with the Matildas still going strong.

Both the past and present have come together at the same venue they started in a special occasion for women’s football.

It’s a time to thank the inaugural members of the Matildas for their contributions that helped encourage other women to get involved and sustain the Matildas side till now.

“These athletes started a movement, not just a team, which has now become one of the most powerful, popular and recognisable in Australia, said FFA chairman Chris Nikou.

“Many of these women worked full time, while playing for the national team and for many years, this continued to be the case.

“There have been 204 Matildas represent our country in ‘A’ internationals over the past 40 years and today we celebrate each of them and thank them for their contribution to our sport.

“Later this month Cheryl Salisbury will become the first female footballer to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, which rightly recognises the sacrifices and efforts of our female footballers over this time.

“Today many of our Westfield Matildas are full time professional footballers, many playing around the world and when they represent their national team today on home soil, it is in front of big crowds.

“We recognise there is still work to do to ensure our female athletes have more opportunities on and off the park from the grassroots up to our national teams, but today we look back and celebrate the immense strides made.”

From humble beginnings, the Matildas have grown into one of the best women’s football sides in the world.

It goes to show the massive inroads that have been made in the last 40 years and which will continue to be made.

Senior Journalist reporting key international news from around the globe.

Stuart Hodge addresses future for Football NSW

Stuart Hodge

Football NSW Chief Executive Officer Stuart Hodge has addressed key topics on the association’s radar in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking on the CDSFA Community Football Podcast, Hodge is keen for the league to restart as soon as it’s safe to do so.

“I certainly think the government have to take in a lot of factors as we’ve seen with the pandemic – anything can change one day to the next,” he said.

“It was a positive step forward that they’ve got the national principles and the government and NSW will now review those and look at guidelines.

“They’ll have to balance that up with other information that they have and state-specific information here in NSW.

“We’re hopeful given that from some of the surveys which we’ve seen that most people are keen to get out and play again.

“The physical, mental and social benefits are well documented, but we have to make sure we do it under the right conditions and that is when the government says it’s okay.”

The flow on effect of the competition’s postponement will be how clubs juggle summer sports with councils if they clash later down the line, something Hodge is aware of.

“It’s a challenge for all of them and we’re in discussions with some summer sports to try and get some principles in place that if we get football resumed, we’ll have some additional time beyond what we normally get,” he said.

“From some associations, the feedback is from councils have been very sympathetic.

“We’ve collectively lost a couple months of the season already so the opportunity to play a little bit later into the year would be welcomed.

“We’re also conscious that we want to try and keep things on track for next year when hopefully we return on time.

“It’s a balance because we appreciate that there’s also participants that are involved in multiple sports so we’re wanting to help them out and not over-burden them.

“Councils also need to turn fields around although I noticed some of them looking magnificent at the moment.

“We’ve had some very big discussions and hopefully it’s just a fair and reasonable approach which is all we’re asking for.”

One of the main issues across all sports due to postponements has been the topic of refunds, with games in professional sport being played behind closed doors.

While there’s still the unknown about when fans can return to grounds in 2020 and beyond, Hodge has clarified how Football NSW will look to navigate through this tricky time.

“I think in the interim if people are facing financial hardship then of course they should be in touch with their club to get a refund,” Hodge said.

“If the season gets underway then we’ll have to redo our modelling and look at what the fee structures are.

“I hope we do get back on the field and we can go down that path – if the season doesn’t get played then everyone will have to sit and remodel what the costs are and things like that.”

Since this podcast was published on 5th May, Football NSW have moved a step closer to resuming training at the very least with the NSW Government confirming an easing of restrictions – taking affect from Friday 15th May including:

  • outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people
  • cafes and restaurants can seat 10 patrons at any one time
  • up to 5 visitors to a household at any one time
  • weddings up to 10 guests
  • indoor funerals up to 20 mourners, outdoor funerals up to 30
  • religious gatherings/places of worship up to 10 worshipers
  • use of outdoor equipment with caution
  • outdoor pools open with restrictions.

In a recent press release, it’s mentioned the Office of Sport is working closely with government agencies about how sporting organisations can safely return to action.

The coach speaks: One on one with Alen Stajcic

It was perhaps apt that my chat with former Matildas and now Central Coast Mariners manager Alen Stajcic was interrupted by an urgent call from the top brass in Gosford; such is the chaos of the times.

Stajcic agreed to chat about all things football in the present climate and the repercussions for the short and long term future of the game in Australia. I opened by asking the 46-year-old whether he held fears for the future of the game, both domestically and abroad.

Citing what he referred to as “the new normal”, Stajcic predicted considerable challenges on both landscapes as football enters a recovery period.

“It was pleasing to see most governments place health concerns over those of their economies, yet the financial implications of that will see football take a hit as well; being merely a microcosm of the world,” he said.

Rather astutely, Stajcic pointed out that, “At times like this it is the vulnerable and weak that will be exposed”. Once again referring not only to our communities, but also to the precarious financial position in which Australian football now finds itself.

I probed the former Sydney FC W-League manager as to the ramifications for the women’s top tier. He referred to the $16344 minimum wage and a likely decrease to it; in line with what their A-League counterparts will no doubt experience.

Stajcic recalled the early days of the league when “W-League clubs were primarily funded by the federations”. When the clubs themselves took over the funding and administrative arms in subsequent years, their reliance on broadcasting revenue became as paramount as that of the A-League competition.

Hence, with the existing broadcast deal between FFA and Foxtel seeming insecure and likely to be reshaped, Stajcic sees the immediate impact on both leagues as “significant and potentially life changing” for many players, coaches and staff.

I asked whether there could be something of a silver lining in international football, with a potential correction of wages that have spiralled to absurd levels in recent times. Whilst in notional agreement in regards to the EPL, LaLiga, Serie A and other major leagues, he also expressed a concern that a hypothetical 20 per cent correction could have disastrous implications for the A-League. Stajcic was adamant of the importance in “sustaining full-time professionalism in Australia.”

With many ex-Socceroos currently throwing their hat into the opinion ring and FFA convening the rather aptly named think tank, Starting IX, I quizzed Stajcic on the past. I wanted to know whether he felt the added weight currently being given to past players’ views was a help, or in fact a hindrance to the financial and structural challenges that lay ahead.

Stajcic was clear and categorical in his response, citing dangerous appointments of the past, where non-footballing executives were frequently appointed to prominent positions at FFA. He is hopeful for and thankful that James Johnson has taken the reigns and was clear in his desire for the governing body to emanate a “clear football voice with football people making the decisions that impact the game.”

According to Stajcic, a sticking point in the domestic game lies in the pathways to the elite level. “The pathways for young and promising players were far better in the NSL days. Outcomes are a direct result of those pathways.”

No doubt, that issue may well be placed on the back burner for the short term future, as Johnson and his board attempt to navigate their way through the mess that is COVID-19. However, Stajcic sees it as vital if Australia is to begin producing a greater array of elite level professionals, capable of playing in the world’s top leagues.

With the A-League eyeing a month long feast of football in August, I asked Stajcic how he would approach preparing his squad with fitness levels and continuity serious considerations.

“Due to the restrictions we have had in Australia, I think you will find many clubs will be in different situations, depending on the access to facilities the players had and will have within their own jurisdictions. Clubs will also have different goals and objectives when we return. A club like the Mariners are obviously looking to continue the rebuild, others may do the same.”

I rounded out the interview by asking the man still heavily invested in the fortunes of the Matildas, whether the Australia/New Zealand bid for the 2023 Women’s World Cup will seem more or less attractive to FIFA in the aftermath of the pandemic.

He replied, “I’m not sure how it could seem less attractive. There is little need to develop infrastructure as our stadiums can cope comfortably with such an event and Australia does seem more advanced in its recovery from COVID, compared to Brazil, Japan and Colombia who are also bidding for the event.”

With reports from Japan suggesting the pandemic still has some way to run its full course and Brazil having tragically lost over 11,600 citizens, Colombia and Australia may now well loom as the favourites in the race.

Hopefully Stajcic is correct in his summation of the potential success of the bid and that FIFA also see the benefits of hosting a World Cup down under for the first time. It would be one of the biggest sporting events in Australia’s history; one drawing revenue, investment and interest.

All stakeholders know just how important each of those things are in the business of football, Alen Stajcic included, particularly within the uncertain financial future that football in Australia must now navigate.

FFA launches online football resource for schools

Football Federation Australia have announced it has released a new interactive online football resource for primary school students.

Titled the ‘Schools Football Workbook’, the resource gives children and their teachers the opportunity to learn and become fans of the world game.

The online resource covers four separate areas:

Active: Focuses on physical literacy, with students also learning the value of good nutritional habits and eating practices.

Experience: Based off FFA’s MiniRoos program, students can complete footballs skills and challenges via video tutorials.

Transition: This section helps individuals identify pathways to access their local football club and link-up with member federations.

Fans: Students can participate in interactive projects with the aim of learning about the A-League, W-League, Socceroos and Matildas.

Speaking about the workbook, FFA CEO James Johnson claims he is pleased with what has been produced.

“This is an important piece of work to bring football to the classroom via an interactive, digital resource that will prove invaluable to primary schools as they work through the COVID-19 situation. It will enable boys and girls to remain connected with football, while staying active, healthy and happy,” Johnson said in a statement on Monday.

“We have taken a whole of game approach in the development of the workbook and I’d like to acknowledge the great contribution the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League clubs and the member federations make in the schools’ space, and the effort they’ve put into this project alongside FFA.

“This workbook will complement the work our stakeholders undertake with schools and will enhance football’s future delivery model.

“We may be moving to a relaxation of social isolation measures over the coming weeks, but we believe this workbook will be of great benefit to schools, teachers and students long after the coronavirus pandemic is over.”

Sport Australia General Deputy Manager of Participation James Ceely praised football’s governing body for the initative they have shown.

“It’s great to see Football Federation Australia embedding physical literacy into resources for schools,” he said.

“Through these fun and engaging football activities, children can develop the skills, behaviours and attitudes they need to be physically active for life.”

Schools and teachers can register and download the workbook here.

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