The sport that young kids (both girls and boys), get to watch nowadays is different than when I grew up.
Me, a young kid in the ’90’s idolised men, for no other reason than that’s all I saw. I cut my hair like them. I dressed like them. I even told my Mum to not tell people I was a girl when I was mistaken for a boy. I always knew I wanted to be a sportsperson, but watching back as an adult, it wasn’t a sportswoman I wanted to be, it was a sportsman.
Looking around at my first ever live CommBank Matildas match, however, it is now a different story, and everyone will be better for it. Young girls, being able to look up to women who look like them, and young boys seeing women as equal.
But, it’s not only the women on the field that are changing the landscape of sport, it’s the fanbase themselves. While these wonderful women are doing their thing, the crowd is creating the most enjoyable and inclusive environment you could ask for to soak it all up in.
I’ve been going to live sport my entire life, and the conditioning of somewhat poor behaviours we’ve become accustomed to, and weirdly accept, at other sporting matches, is now totally wild to me when I can see now how it actually should be.
Australia v Spain at the 2023 Cup of Nations was my first live CommBank Matildas match, but I felt already part of a community. I didn’t feel ostracised for asking what could be deemed as dumb question, or worried about saying the wrong thing to the wrong person who’d had too many beers. Not a swear word is spoken, even when a bad pass in made by an Australian player, or a poor decision from the umpires.
The passion is still there though, without that unnecessary garbage, and instead of being carried away by negativity, you can enjoy it all instead. The crowd erupted as loud as anything when Caitlin Foord scored a brilliant header to take the lead to 3-0 against Spain. The sigh of despair echoed throughout CommBank stadium when Sam Kerr’s goal was disallowed for being offside, and you could feel the tension and anxiety when goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold went down with injury after colliding with a Spanish forward, and the cheers that followed when she stood up and continued playing.
So while kids are getting to watch on and dream of being the next Sam Kerr or Caitlin Foord, they’re also watching on and learning how to be a fan. A true fan, not the toxic, macho fans I grew up listening to and watching. The reality is, not many of us get to grow up and be Sam Kerr, that’s what makes her so special, but we all get the opportunity to be Sam Kerr’s and the CommBank Matildas’ biggest fans, so we might as well do that job justice, right?
If you’ve never been to a women’s sporting match, let alone a CommBank Matildas match, put it on your to-do list this year. I guarantee you of a not only a great sporting battle, but you’ll enjoy your time there. It’s safe. It’s fun. It’s how it should be, and my goodness I can’t wait to head to my next match.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ in July can’t come fast enough!
Georgie Parker – Hockeyroos Olympian, Journalist and newest CommBank Matildas’ fan