FFA sells out Matildas

FFA sells out Matildas

Gender inequality, financial constraints or just laziness, it doesn't matter which way you look at it, all the signs point to a huge Football Federation Australia stuff-up in Canberra this week.

If you haven't heard, they all but shunned Australia's best female players.

Devoted fans at the Australia v New Zealand international on Thursday. The game wasn't promoted to the public.

Devoted fans at the Australia v New Zealand international on Thursday. The game wasn't promoted to the public.Credit:Melissa Adams

Yep, put the Matildas in a camp at the AIS and then told them resources were too stretched to open the gates to the public for their international fixture against New Zealand.

In fact the players weren't even allowed to promote the game themselves and were warned against spilling the beans on social media that there was actually an international game in the capital.


Imagine this: you run out for your country, wait for the national anthem and then look into an empty grandstand.

Hardly inspiring.

The players can feel rightly aggrieved.

For the FFA it all came down to money. At the moment its focus is on the Socceroos and their World Cup qualifying campaign.

I can understand that. The World Cup is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, event in world sport. But should Australia's best female players suffer? Surely not.

The reasons the FFA gave for having a ''closed game'' at the AIS centred around stretched resources.

The real reason was probably cash - hiring security, catering, ticketing and cleaning up the venue.

At a time when women's sport cries out for exposure, this was a missed opportunity.

How is women's soccer supposed to grow if the game's governing body won't even fork out some money to promote and host an international game?

Go to schools. Put up a poster. Advertise the match on social media. It's not hard.

No one expected an online ticket rush or extra portaloos to be trucked in. In the end between 100 and 200 people braved the cold, wet night to watch.

Maybe if it was advertised, tickets were sold on the gate and there was a barbecue that number might have swelled closer to 1000. Maybe not.

Don't be mistaken. The players weren't angry that there wasn't a big song and dance about their game. They know the importance of the Socceroos' World Cup bid.

They didn't want fireworks, online tickets or a big screen.

All they wanted was an atmosphere at the ground. An atmosphere to create memories and excitement for stepping on to the international stage.

The Matildas have played at empty stadiums in Europe for closed games. But surely a trans-Tasman clash at home is different.

The FFA has ensured the female players know their place.

Unfortunately now everyone knows where the Matildas sit in the pecking order.

It shouldn't be forgotten that there's a second match in the series on Sunday. The winner will take home the Centenary Cup, a prize up for grabs as part of Canberra's 100th birthday celebrations.

Soccer is one of the only sports which hasn't truly come to the centenary party.

The Socceroos are on the cusp of qualifying for the World Cup and when they secure a place on Tuesday night, it's highly unlikely Canberra will be able to win a men's international match for the rest of this season.

Capital Football and the ACT government have been doing everything in their power to try to attract a big-ticket match.

A game that can capture Canberra's attention.

As it stands, Canberra will get two Matildas matches - one behind closed doors - and possibly a pre-season fixture for the Newcastle Jets taking on the ACT Rockets.

There are plenty of rusted-on soccer fans in the capital.

They've stuck with the sport even when the FFA turned up its nose at Canberra when a new A-League licence was available.

What's been the FFA's biggest present to Canberra supporters recently? A Socceroos match against Malaysia in 2011. Yep, the same Malaysian team - ranked well outside the world top 120 - that lost to Canberra FC two weeks ago.

To jolt your memory, the Socceroos flew into Canberra on the morning of the game, ran out with a second-string team, flew out less than 24 hours after arriving and officials were baffled why just 10,000 fans turned up.

FFA chief executive David Gallop will be in the crowd at McKellar Park for the Matildas versus New Zealand. New FIFA committee member Moya Dodd will be there, too.

Hopefully they realise it's time to pay Australia's top female players some respect. It wouldn't hurt if they repaired some bridges in Canberra as well.

Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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