19/04/2024

Steph Catley will be playing in her third World Cup (Picture: Matildas/Twitter)

The current Matildas squad are pioneers for women’s football in Australia. After the upcoming World Cup on home soil, the 23 players selected to represent their country will become generational heroes regardless of the result.

They will provide the following generations with a visualisation of their dreams and ambitions, a visualisation that Matildas vice-captain Steph Catley wasn’t able to perceive.

When Catley made her senior women’s debut for Melbourne Victory in 2009, the Socceroos were breaking new ground, preparing to improve on their efforts in Germany in 2006. However, there was little to no coverage of the Matildas and their World Cup efforts in 2007, where Cheryl Salisbury’s late header sent the Aussies into the quarterfinals.

For Catley, her earliest memory of wanting to become a Matilda was during the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany.

“The sad thing is I don’t really have a really early memory of watching a female World Cup or watching a female tournament because it wasn’t on TV,” Catley said.

“It wasn’t accessible, it wasn’t in Australia, so I never really got to watch it until the Germany World Cup which was sort of right on the brink of when I was breaking into the team.

“So it was a bit of a different feel for me. It was more of a ‘damn, why aren’t I there’ kind of thing?”

Our future Matildas won’t have to wait until they’re 17 years old like Catley was to start dreaming about playing for their country. The mass publication and coverage of the home tournament will give the next generation something to look towards.

“I think it’s awesome that [women’s football is] so different now. There are going to be so many little girls that are just starting out, that are six or seven years old, that will turn on the TV and be able to watch us,” Catley said. 

“It’s nice that it’s come so far and it’s so accessible now, and they’ll have us to aspire to.”

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The Women’s World Cup will be the first football World Cup to be played in Australia, which the Matildas defender believes has provided Australian football, in particular the women’s game with a welcomed transformation.

“In the lead up you’ve seen so many changes. You’ve seen so much more attention on the women’s game, on us as a team, on grassroots football (whether that’s boys or girls). Even [the new Matildas facility] is something that when I was growing up playing football I could never have even imagined,” she said. 

“It creates a buzz, and it creates a lot of attention for our game. I think for us as a team, it’s obviously a responsibility in terms of if we do really well, we could change football in Australia forever.”

The Arsenal star believes that the hysteria surrounding the World Cup is a testament to the growth of women’s football on a global scale.

“I think women’s football is at a place now where it’s entirely bigger than any of us expected, and the growth [over the last year] in particular has just gone through the roof,” she said.

“If you look at what’s going on in England with them winning the Euros, the way that that had an effect on the entire country and as individuals and as players they’re recognisable.” 

The Matildas begin their World Cup campaign against Ireland on 20 July at Stadium Australia.

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