What do actor Hugh Jackman, pop star Kylie Minogue, and Elmo all have in common? All have expressed their support for the Matildas.
They aren’t alone - Matildas' fever is sweeping Australia. Almost every newspaper in the country highlights the team on the front page. Merchandise is selling faster than retailers can keep it in stock. Most notably, the Matildas’ quarter-final match against France was the most watched television broadcast in over a decade.
The term “Matildas effect” is beginning to be thrown around to describe this tidal wave of enthusiasm for the team. Most notably, the Women’s A-League (Australia’s domestic women’s soccer league) reported that Sydney FC broke their season ticket record two months out from the season’s start. Why Sydney? Quarter-final-winning penalty taker Cortnee Vine plays there.
The outpouring of support from other sports has been massive. Athletes like AFLW legend Darcy Vescio and Paralympic gold medalist Dylan Alcott have been vocal in their support for the team on social media.
The most notable support comes from the AFL, the most popular sport (and sports league) in Australia. A traditionally male-dominated sport, the AFL’s excitement for the Matildas is a game changer. In fact, it literally changed AFL games. The match between Carlton and Melbourne was delayed so fans could watch the Matildas in the stadium through the end of regulation time. When the Matildas went to penalties and the AFL game began, many fans left their seats to watch the end of the game on the concourse of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The best visual representation of the AFL’s embrace of the Matildas is this photo; when the post-match press conference of the Adelaide Crows-Brisbane Lions game was delayed because both head coaches were watching the Matildas' quarter-final.
This squad has even united age-old foes. In this clip from Optus Stadium in Perth, fans on both sides of the heated West Coast rivalry joined together to cheer on the Matildas.
The groundswell of support for the Matildas has been rising for quite some time. Now it’s at a fever pitch. It’s too early to say what the long-term effects of this World Cup will be, but all signs point to the “Matildas effect” becoming more concrete as the tournament ends.
Matildas defender Ellie Carpenter put it best when asked about the legacy of the squad: “…this is what we wanted to do. We wanted to inspire the next generation and yet pave the way for women’s football in Australia.”
By all accounts, the Matildas are succeeding in both of those goals. Whether they win or lose the World Cup, they have won the heart of Australia for many years to come.