Former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons has backed the nation to fall in love with football again when the Matildas launch their World Cup campaign in 2023, heralding it a landmark moment for women’s sport in Australia.
Australia and New Zealand joined in celebration late last week when FIFA announced the two nations successful in their joint trans-Tasman bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Evoking memories of the Socceroos’ historic 2006 World Cup qualification, FitzSimons was bracing for football fever to sweep through the nation when the Matildas kick off their campaign in three years’ time, and even pinned the squad steal the spotlight away from men’s sport.
“The Women’s World Cup, me, with a lot of Australia, even if soccer is not our first choice, we will lean forward,” FitzSimons told Wide World of Sports’ 5 Minutes with Fitzy.
“The Matildas, there’s something about them that makes you go, ‘Wow I want to watch them’. And in a World Cup it’s a phenomenal step forward for women’s sport, for women’s soccer in Australia, for the Matildas. Everything is good because we will watch as a nation.
“But women’s sport, the wind is blowing their way, the tide has turned and you see all these resources flowing towards it.
“If when all this attention does go to women’s sport, it must come away from men’s sport, which is no bad thing.”
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However, for the average punter, FitzSimons warned that excitement would likely simmer down once the tournament ran its course.
“Yes [I do think the passion for the Socceroos will jump to the Matildas], but not necessarily for the game itself,” He said.
“An example from way back at the America’s Cup. The absolute truth of watching two yachts going back and forth, like I give a damn, but tell me that America held it for 126 years and Australia was about to take it off America in America, you bloody beauty, I cannot get enough of it.
“The whole nation stopped. Once we got the America’s Cup, we could never get that excited again.
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“For me, I will be absolutely absorbed following the Matildas. But I don’t think that necessarily translates to a great love of soccer.
“I’d love them to play the New Zealand women’s team, the Silver Ferns, that would be a great game. Because we’ve got the cup, let’s see how the two co-hosts fare against each other. How wonderful would it be to have that game played.”
Australia joined forces with New Zealand to submit a joint bid in December and the opening match of the tournament will be played at Eden Park in Auckland with the final to take place in Sydney.