Infotainment Factory: 'I Told You So': Matildas to send World Cup message

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Monday, 11 March 2019

'I Told You So': Matildas to send World Cup message


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When the Matildas commence their Women’s World Cup campaign in June, they’re not just out to win the tournament, skipper Sam Kerr wants to change the trajectory of football in Australia.

Former Socceroos captain Johnny Warren famously once declared that he wanted his sporting legacy to be, ‘I Told You So’, after a lifetime as a dedicated champion of football despite the sexist, racist and homophobic abuse that those within the game in Australia were often subjected to.

It was a defiant answer to all those who doubted Australian football would ever become a successful and beloved sport in the nation, and his words echoed across the country when the Socceroos returned to the World Cup in 2006, 32 years after Warren did so with the team in 1974. Though Warren passed in 2004 and never lived to see the Socceroos make the round of 16 in Germany before being defeated by eventual champions Italy, ‘I Told You So’ has been the lasting catch cry for Australian football fans.

Fast forward to 2019 and the Matildas are eyeing more than just qualification, they’re in a position to win the Women’s World Cup. And just like Johnny Warren, they too are keen to dish out a few ‘I Told You So’s’ to the non-believers.

Sam Kerr

The squad is not yet finalised for the tournament three months away, but the feeling among the team is one of quiet confidence. No matter which player you talk to, they’re all of the same belief that the Matildas have never had a chance as good as this to make history in France. They’ve got the experience, a healthy squad and the form to go all the way.

They’re not just looking to make history for the Matildas though. Kerr knows exactly how important winning the Women’s World Cup would be for the entire sporting landscape in Australia.

“It would change the way Australia thinks about women’s sport and women’s football, but I think it would change the way the whole world thinks about Australian football,” Kerr told Wide World of Sports at the launch of the Matildas’ exclusive new Nike kit.

“We’re always talked about at a different level to other nations but the Matildas are slowly gaining that respect of the rest of the world, so I think the biggest thing would be changing people’s minds and kind of an ‘I Told You So’ to a lot of people.”

Sam Kerr wears the new Matildas Women's World Cup kit

It’s no secret that Australia’s top female footballers are made to work twice as hard to play professionally in the sport. They often play two domestic seasons a year (usually in Australia and abroad), they’re paid a fraction of what male players are given, and many still hold regular jobs outside of football.

They aim high, dream big and fight like hell for every bit of success that comes their way, even though recognition – financially, from media, or otherwise – is significantly less than their male counterparts.

But players like Kerr, a nominee for the first ever female Ballon d'Or Award last year, are helping bridge that gap.

As a scintillating, goal-scoring machine with a neat backflipping celebration, Kerr has emerged as one of the rare female players to have captured worldwide attention from all football fans, no matter what gender.

She wants that sentiment to grow at her third Women’s World Cup appearance in France and for women’s football to just be appreciated for its own unique qualities.

“You just want to take away the comparing between the men’s and women’s game,” Kerr said.

Sam Kerr

“There’s different things about the men’s and women’s game but they are loved on different levels. That’s the beauty of it. I just want people to stop comparing and love women’s football for what it is.

“I love the women’s brand of football, it’s really fast and energetic. It’s different but good in its own way.

“It’s just about being proud of being female, and being an athlete. We’ve always wanted it to be equal and we think the way we represent ourselves really screams that.

“We’ve got a bit of swagger about us in our team.”

THE MATILDAS UNVEIL THEIR ELECTRIC NEW KIT

Sam Kerr wears the new Matildas Women's World Cup kit

For Kerr, the brightest star in the Matildas and their recently-promoted captain, the honour of leading a team to a World Cup is further motivation to get the job done, even if she’s still pinching herself since new coach Ante Milicic made the announcement.

“I couldn’t have ever dreamed of this. You grow up as a kid dreaming but you don’t think of specifics and for me this is just one of those things that I’ll forever look back on in my career and be really proud of,” Kerr said.

“Ante [Milicic] thinks I’ve earned this position and that’s something I don’t take lightly so I’m just going to keep being myself, hopefully keep performing on the field and keep being the same me off the field.”

Kerr hasn’t let down her coach thus far. The Matildas made a statement at the Cup of Nations, defeating South Korea, New Zealand and Argentina en route to claiming the trophy in Melbourne last week. And all amidst the shock departure of their longtime coach Alen Stajcic just last month. Somehow the team found a way to come together, work with Stajcic’s replacement Milicic, and under him, they’ve continued to thrive, refusing to let the surprise dismissal slow down their momentum towards the Women’s World Cup.

Nike signalled their endorsement of the Matildas as world-beaters too, as they launched an exclusive kit for the Australian women’s team for the very first time. No longer were the Matildas inheriting whichever Nike kit the Socceroos received. This time they’ve got their own unique design, and it’s a seriously cool kit to boot.

Matildas model the new Women's World Cup kit

Kerr knows however that there remains some detractors of women’s football and women’s sport, even if the Matildas are quickly becoming as the most popular and widely-supported national team in the country.

They might have even already overtaken the Socceroos.

“Hopefully one day it’s seen as the Matildas are the greatest team in Australia,” Kerr said.

“We’re totally moving up in the ranks in Australia and I hope the public feels the same way about the team as we do. I hope they’re as proud of the team as we are.

“I think we’ve got a little bit to go. We’re not going to pump ourselves up too much. We’ve got to lift some more silverware and hopefully this is the year.”

Matildas claim Cup of Nations

A big way the team has endeared itself to the nation is through their dedication to their fans. In recent years their on-field football prowess has been rewarded by sell-out crowds, and for every green-and-gold supporter, they’ve shown their gratitude ten-fold.

Hours after every Matildas match the squad will still be out on the pitch, by the fence signing autographs and taking photos with fans. It’s rare to see a national team as successful as them still give so much time to their supporters, and it’s that aspect that Kerr said they pride themselves on and has helped them win over more fans in recent years.

“The reason I think [people like us] is just because we’re real people. We’re not untouchable. We feel like we’re really close with the fans, some of whom we know by name,” she said.

“Sometimes in men’s football it can be a little bit different, the players feel like they’re untouchable and so much taken away from the public eye, but we really try to connect with people and at the end of the day we’re athletes, but also normal people and I think people appreciate that.”

Sam Kerr

As some other sporting codes battle with off-field controversies, the Matildas stand tall as positive role models for the next generation of sports stars, and in France they know they’re not only carrying the hopes of a nation on their shoulders, but also the expectations of the young kids who look up to them, boys and girls. And that’s not something they take lightly.

Prior to the Cup of Nations, the Matildas looked a bit out of sorts, and weren’t firing as we know they can. They’ve since steadied the ship and now they’re ready to take on the world.

“Everyone has been at home playing in the W-League and just had time to mentally relax. Playing in the W-League helps, you get a little bit of confidence back but we had a bit of a tough run with injuries,” Kerr said.

“Nothing great was ever easy.

“We’ve had a few bumps but I think we’re on the right path and we’re on the up hill now going into the World Cup.”

When the Matildas commence their Women’s World Cup campaign in June, they’re not just out to win the tournament, skipper Sam Kerr wants to change the trajectory of football in Australia.

Former Socceroos captain Johnny Warren famously once declared that he wanted his sporting legacy to be, ‘I Told You So’, after a lifetime as a dedicated champion of football despite the sexist, racist and homophobic abuse that those within the game in Australia were often subjected to.

It was a defiant answer to all those who doubted Australian football would ever become a successful and beloved sport in the nation, and his words echoed across the country when the Socceroos returned to the World Cup in 2006, 32 years after Warren did so with the team in 1974. Though Warren passed in 2004 and never lived to see the Socceroos make the round of 16 in Germany before being defeated by eventual champions Italy, ‘I Told You So’ has been the lasting catch cry for Australian football fans.

Fast forward to 2019 and the Matildas are eyeing more than just qualification, they’re in a position to win the Women’s World Cup. And just like Johnny Warren, they too are keen to dish out a few ‘I Told You So’s’ to the non-believers.

Sam Kerr

The squad is not yet finalised for the tournament three months away, but the feeling among the team is one of quiet confidence. No matter which player you talk to, they’re all of the same belief that the Matildas have never had a chance as good as this to make history in France. They’ve got the experience, a healthy squad and the form to go all the way.

They’re not just looking to make history for the Matildas though. Kerr knows exactly how important winning the Women’s World Cup would be for the entire sporting landscape in Australia.

“It would change the way Australia thinks about women’s sport and women’s football, but I think it would change the way the whole world thinks about Australian football,” Kerr told Wide World of Sports at the launch of the Matildas’ exclusive new Nike kit.

“We’re always talked about at a different level to other nations but the Matildas are slowly gaining that respect of the rest of the world, so I think the biggest thing would be changing people’s minds and kind of an ‘I Told You So’ to a lot of people.”

Sam Kerr wears the new Matildas Women's World Cup kit

It’s no secret that Australia’s top female footballers are made to work twice as hard to play professionally in the sport. They often play two domestic seasons a year (usually in Australia and abroad), they’re paid a fraction of what male players are given, and many still hold regular jobs outside of football.

They aim high, dream big and fight like hell for every bit of success that comes their way, even though recognition – financially, from media, or otherwise – is significantly less than their male counterparts.

But players like Kerr, a nominee for the first ever female Ballon d'Or Award last year, are helping bridge that gap.

As a scintillating, goal-scoring machine with a neat backflipping celebration, Kerr has emerged as one of the rare female players to have captured worldwide attention from all football fans, no matter what gender.

She wants that sentiment to grow at her third Women’s World Cup appearance in France and for women’s football to just be appreciated for its own unique qualities.

“You just want to take away the comparing between the men’s and women’s game,” Kerr said.

Sam Kerr

“There’s different things about the men’s and women’s game but they are loved on different levels. That’s the beauty of it. I just want people to stop comparing and love women’s football for what it is.

“I love the women’s brand of football, it’s really fast and energetic. It’s different but good in its own way.

“It’s just about being proud of being female, and being an athlete. We’ve always wanted it to be equal and we think the way we represent ourselves really screams that.

“We’ve got a bit of swagger about us in our team.”

THE MATILDAS UNVEIL THEIR ELECTRIC NEW KIT

Sam Kerr wears the new Matildas Women's World Cup kit

For Kerr, the brightest star in the Matildas and their recently-promoted captain, the honour of leading a team to a World Cup is further motivation to get the job done, even if she’s still pinching herself since new coach Ante Milicic made the announcement.

“I couldn’t have ever dreamed of this. You grow up as a kid dreaming but you don’t think of specifics and for me this is just one of those things that I’ll forever look back on in my career and be really proud of,” Kerr said.

“Ante [Milicic] thinks I’ve earned this position and that’s something I don’t take lightly so I’m just going to keep being myself, hopefully keep performing on the field and keep being the same me off the field.”

Kerr hasn’t let down her coach thus far. The Matildas made a statement at the Cup of Nations, defeating South Korea, New Zealand and Argentina en route to claiming the trophy in Melbourne last week. And all amidst the shock departure of their longtime coach Alen Stajcic just last month. Somehow the team found a way to come together, work with Stajcic’s replacement Milicic, and under him, they’ve continued to thrive, refusing to let the surprise dismissal slow down their momentum towards the Women’s World Cup.

Nike signalled their endorsement of the Matildas as world-beaters too, as they launched an exclusive kit for the Australian women’s team for the very first time. No longer were the Matildas inheriting whichever Nike kit the Socceroos received. This time they’ve got their own unique design, and it’s a seriously cool kit to boot.

Matildas model the new Women's World Cup kit

Kerr knows however that there remains some detractors of women’s football and women’s sport, even if the Matildas are quickly becoming as the most popular and widely-supported national team in the country.

They might have even already overtaken the Socceroos.

“Hopefully one day it’s seen as the Matildas are the greatest team in Australia,” Kerr said.

“We’re totally moving up in the ranks in Australia and I hope the public feels the same way about the team as we do. I hope they’re as proud of the team as we are.

“I think we’ve got a little bit to go. We’re not going to pump ourselves up too much. We’ve got to lift some more silverware and hopefully this is the year.”

Matildas claim Cup of Nations

A big way the team has endeared itself to the nation is through their dedication to their fans. In recent years their on-field football prowess has been rewarded by sell-out crowds, and for every green-and-gold supporter, they’ve shown their gratitude ten-fold.

Hours after every Matildas match the squad will still be out on the pitch, by the fence signing autographs and taking photos with fans. It’s rare to see a national team as successful as them still give so much time to their supporters, and it’s that aspect that Kerr said they pride themselves on and has helped them win over more fans in recent years.

“The reason I think [people like us] is just because we’re real people. We’re not untouchable. We feel like we’re really close with the fans, some of whom we know by name,” she said.

“Sometimes in men’s football it can be a little bit different, the players feel like they’re untouchable and so much taken away from the public eye, but we really try to connect with people and at the end of the day we’re athletes, but also normal people and I think people appreciate that.”

Sam Kerr

As some other sporting codes battle with off-field controversies, the Matildas stand tall as positive role models for the next generation of sports stars, and in France they know they’re not only carrying the hopes of a nation on their shoulders, but also the expectations of the young kids who look up to them, boys and girls. And that’s not something they take lightly.

Prior to the Cup of Nations, the Matildas looked a bit out of sorts, and weren’t firing as we know they can. They’ve since steadied the ship and now they’re ready to take on the world.

“Everyone has been at home playing in the W-League and just had time to mentally relax. Playing in the W-League helps, you get a little bit of confidence back but we had a bit of a tough run with injuries,” Kerr said.

“Nothing great was ever easy.

“We’ve had a few bumps but I think we’re on the right path and we’re on the up hill now going into the World Cup.”

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