Newcastle: Matildas superstar Emily van Egmond is confident Australia and New Zealand’s successful 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup bid will finally put football Down Under, and in particular the W-League competition, on the map.
The ‘AsOne’ combined AUS/NZ bid edged Colombia in a FIFA Council vote early on Thursday, confirming the world’s biggest women’s sporting competition would officially be held in Australia and New Zealand in two years' time.
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The news is huge for every city set to play host to matches during the tournament — a 13-venue list that includes Newcastle’s Hunter Stadium — but more than that, Van Egmond says, it’s a chance for Australia to mark their name on the sporting map “once and for all,” in the world of women’s sport and beyond.
“If we could host such a tournament and do it in such a great way – which I have no doubt we would do – you’d get more people coming to A-League and W-League games, you’d have more international games for the Socceroos and Matildas,” the Melbourne City star told media in a conference call after the FIFA announcement.
“If we can do it and do it in the right way and be successful in that tournament, for sure it’s going to put us on the map, and I think you’ll have more countries saying, ‘Hey, we want to go to Australia to play them,’ rather than, ‘Hey, you come here.’”
The tournament will also be key to the ever-growing development of football in Australia, the Matildas star said. She believes these are the kinds of events that “inspire” young boys and girls to take up a sport, thanks to the spectacle and excitement.
“It’ll be great for the aspiring young girls in Australia who want to be Matildas, and to be honest, I think it’d be great for any young boy or girl watching,” she admitted.
Van Egmond certainly knows better than anyone that there comes “a moment” where the love of a sport is born; she had her own during the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. She was 13 years old.
Her eyes were glued to the screen as Newcastle’s Cheryl Salisbury smashed home her goal against hosts Canada. A year later, Van Egmond debuted for the Jets.
“I remember watching the 2007 World Cup when Cheryl put away the goal against Canada,” van Egmond said.
“I grew up with Lauren Colthorpe – she’s another Novocastrian – so I remember her goal against Brazil… she scored this really weird header. I’ll always remember watching that as a young kid.”
The home World Cup gives the Matildas that special chance as well. They can become the heroes of the next generation for tens of thousands of youngsters crossing their fingers for glory Down Under in the huge tournament.
“For me, the biggest thing was at a young age, I was invited into the (NSW Institute of Sport) programme, and I just remember walking in,” Van Egmond said.
“The likes of Cheryl Salisbury and Joey Peters, Lauren Colthorpe, and Kate Gill, Karla Reuter (were there) – that’s what really resonates with me and what really kick-started me to want to be a Matilda.”
That’s the kind of hero van Egmond wants to be when the Matildas begin their 2023 campaign in front of their home fans in Sydney. The chance to etch their name into Australian history in the same way as the 2000 Olympics, and the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
“To have the full support of your country, playing in arguably the biggest tournament you can play in for your country, would be something extremely special.”
Photos: AFC, AFP, W-League
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