Why I Couldn't Back the Matildas

While the rest of the country was swept up in the Matildas hype, I couldn't bring myself to cheer them on. Here's why.

Why I Couldn't Back the Matildas
Photo by Wesley Tingey / Unsplash

I had resolved to stay silent on my complete disinterest in the Matildas and their efforts to win the Women's Soccer World Cup.

The closest I came to going public was a tweet asking if it was unAustralian not to be cheering them on.

However, the news that the Queensland government are building a 'Matildas statue' to commemorate their underwhelming fourth place is simply astounding.

Yes, I know the nation was swept up in the euphoria of an Australian based World Cup, and a national team featuring the world's best woman player. They were also considered among the favourites to win.

Prior to the commencement of the tournament, they were rated an 8% chance of winning, level pegging with the eventual victors, Spain.

While fourth place is ok, it is outside of medal rankings and certainly doesn't warrant a statue of achievement.

Perhaps a participation ribbon would be more appropriate, or better still, maybe the players could be content with the money they received for playing.

That said, I acknowledge that the Matildas captured the imagination of the parochial Australian public keen for some bread and circuses sporting success.

I can understand that sentiment.

I am also able to overlook the rather average standard of football when compared to the mens game. These are the best women players out there and as such it's the peak of their sport.

But there is a glaring difference in standard of play.

Back in 2017, the US side was emphatically beaten, five goals to two, by a local under-15 boys squad. A year earlier, our Matildas were thrashed seven to nil by the Newcastle Jets under-15 boys team.

They serve as pointed reminders of the disparity in performance between the male and female leagues.

It should also shut down any notion that men and women should be competing on the same pitch.

But that is all incidental to my lack of enthusiasm for this campaign.

That stems back to the claims of a former Matildas legend about grooming, sexual harassment and abuse being endemic within women's soccer culture.

The scandal became public in 2021 when Lisa De Vanna, made allegations of sexual harassment, indecent assault, grooming and bullying throughout her 20-year career, at both amateur and professional levels.

"Football Australia don't want to admit there is a toxic culture in the sport but 20 years on, what I went through is still happening. Harassment, bullying and intimidation … from grassroots through to the elite level,"

The claims made headlines at the time and sparked this joint statement from the collective Matildas squad.

"We have a strong professional, inclusive and supportive culture that does not condone any of the behaviour mentioned within the numerous media articles about historical incidents.

As a group, we represent the values reflective of Australia and that includes acceptance and inclusivity, regardless of sexuality, ethnicity or culture."

I'd be more willing to accept that if the overwhelming majority of the Matildas team weren't openly gay.

Personally I don't care about that but the mono-culture like environment supports De Vanna's other statement about inclusion and diversity.

"As you get higher up in the levels, when it comes to the national circuit, if you don't fit in with the crowd, you won't make it,"

She wasn't alone.

Former Matilda Rhali Dobson also claimed to have been a targeted by predatory behaviour over her career.

The comments sparked an investigation by Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) at the behest of the Football Australia. The terms of the SIA run inquiry covered allegations including:

• Abuse;
• Bullying;
• Child abuse and child grooming;
• Endangering the safety of a child;
• Harassment, sexual misconduct, unlawful discrimination;
• Victimisation, and vilification.

That investigation resulted in an independent complaint handling process being implemented but I am unable to find any findings about the actual allegations.

If any other sport had claims of child abuse and child grooming, or endangering the safety of a child, sexual misconduct and unlawful discrimination, it would be a major scandal.

The results of an inquiry would be made public and if guilt was found, careers would end and criminal charges would almost certainly result.

Child abuse and child grooming are very serious allegations.

However, in this instance, because the accusations centre around women's sport and, one can presume, relate to the rainbow sexual revolution, there's apparently nothing more to see here.

We've seen greater outcry over minor indiscretions in low level male sporting teams.

The untested claims of some ex-AFL players even destroyed the careers of several senior coaches recently, and yet, here we have child abuse allegations linked to our national team and it looks like they have been swept under the carpet.

Frankly that's not good enough in my book.

Just like the National men's cricket side cheating saw me lose all interest in cricket, I simply can't cheer on a team with unresolved allegations of the type that hover over the Matildas and women's soccer.

That said, they either don't matter to the rest of the country or most people are simply unaware of the toxic culture that allegedly underpins these new 'role models'.

Now they are erecting a statue in their honour. The world has surely gone mad.

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