Ben Gilby spoke to Rose Valente from The Ladies League You Tube Channel and Podcast in Australia. The group describe the podcast as being by the fans “for the fans” and run by “a group of female football fans covering football in Australia. Content is heavily influenced by our passion, videos are low budget, interviews are what the fans want to hear and live commentary via Twitter is unapologetic.”
Rose opened our conversation by telling me all about how the podcast started: “It started how everything else we do started, by a snap decision I made and said ‘who’s in’ to the chat. The Podcast is only new for us, we have been making videos/documentaries on our YouTube channel, TLL TV, as well as writing articles which have now relocated to www.thereserveteam.com.au as we are currently restructuring our organisation. In the Australian football scene, nobody (that we knew of) had a strong dedicated women’s football podcast. There are so many A-League podcasts but no one really focused directly on W-League, which is where we wanted to come in. We started by covering the Aussies abroad and in the WSL and we are now doing weekly shows with the W-League underway. I think the only way to describe it is chaotic. Our podcast is exactly how we are at the pub watching a game. We’re yelling at each other, there’s no order and we always go over time!”
The majority of women’s football supporters in England don’t really appreciate just what a big deal The Matildas are in Australia. This itself is pretty incredible given the fact that in terms of media coverage, football is significantly behind Australian Rules Football (AFL), Rugby League and Cricket. I asked Rose how she thinks the Matildas have managed to gain such passionate support:
“AFL is our biggest competition here in Australia as it’s huge. Football is not the number one sport and the sport as a whole is constantly battling for air time within the media. The Matildas have been on the rise and their recent successes and lovable nature has won over Australia’s hearts. There is something very relatable with this Matildas team, they are down to earth and that resonates with the fans. They put everything on the pitch and they play for their shirts. Nike’s creation of the Spew 2.0 Matildas specific jersey for the 2019 France Women’s World Cup was a huge moment for women’s football in Australia. Ex-Matildas remember sewing their badges on, wearing men’s sizes and some not even receiving their own kits. Now powerhouse brand Nike have created an iconic remake of infamous Socceroos Spew (worn from 1990) for the women and well, it’s hard to explain what that means. When I wore my Matildas Spew 2.0 jersey for the first time, I felt so proud of this team and all the Ex-Matildas that brought us to this position.”
With so many members of The Matildas squad now playing their club football in England, I wondered how the FA Women’s Super League is thought of in Australia: “Australians have really been getting around the WSL this season – it probably helps that the W-League has had a nine month off season! Optus Sport securing the rights for the WSL in Australia is great as they have the FA Premier League rights too so it makes the women’s game much more accessible to the existing fans of English football who may not have explored WSL previously.”
With most of the Matildas now playing outside of Australia, I asked Rose what she felt this meant for the W-League in the short to medium term future: “I think it’s going to be an exciting challenge for the W-League. Many thought the league was doomed but many don’t head to State National Premier League (NPL) games throughout the NPL seasons and watch our local talent. From a national team perspective, our Matildas will only get better by playing alongside Miedema, Le Sommer, Pernille Harder etc. Our players heading to bigger leagues only means great things for Australian football however the W-League now needs to decide what type of competition they want to be.”
Another issue that the W-League faces is that, with Australia co-hosting the next Women’s World Cup in 2023, a great deal is needed to grow recognition of the competition in the media and with the public. With only a handful of international players now playing in the competition, it makes life much harder. “There is a lot required to improve coverage and recognition,” said Rose, “but with the ever growing investment in women’s football in this country, we should hopefully make some changes in the near future.”
The appointment of Tony Gustavsson as Matildas head coach (see our piece on the recent Zoom conference with him that we joined in: https://impetus885775742.wordpress.com/2021/01/22/tony-gustavsson-ready-to-take-the-matildas-to-the-next-level/) was met with great positivity by Rose: “It’s great news! I can’t wait until the Matildas can properly start training together and getting some friendlies under their belts. It’s hard to gauge just yet as he hasn’t had a hands on opportunity as of yet but this is an extremely positive appointment and Australia is super excited!”
The next three years is potentially really exciting for the Matildas with the Olympics, Asia Cup and World Cup. I asked Rose what she felt success in this period would realistically look like. “Win win win! Haha but realistically I think the Olympics and Asia Cup will be an insight into what our performance in 2023 will look like and I am hoping Tony (Gustavsson) and the coaching team can learn from any early exits prior to 2023. At the Football Writers Festival we attended recently, Football Australia CEO James Johnson said he wants to see the Matildas win the World Cup at home and I loved hearing that. They have the backing of absolutely everyone. These next two years will be hard work for all involved but I think with the correct investment from our federation, we can take it out because we have the players and we have the coaching staff.”
Whilst the current stars of the Matildas are becoming more familiar to British women’s football fans due to their presence in the FAWSL, I asked Rose who she feels the next generation of stars will be for the national side: “In my eyes, it is Remy Siemsen, Jada Mathyssen-Whyman (if she can stay fit) both currently at Sydney FC and Ellie Carpenter. While Ellie is a huge star and has been part of the Matildas set up for a while now, we need to remember she’s only twenty years old! She has a lot still to achieve and I think she will.”
With an exciting home World Cup starting to appear over the horizon, I couldn’t help but thinking about the number of huge missed opportunities football has had in Australia over the past fifty years or so. Therefore, Rose and I ended our conversation by talking about what Football Australia need to do to make sure the 2023 World Cup doesn’t get added to that depressing catalogue: “Football in Australia needs a lot of work in general so this is a hard one. I honestly do not have the answer to this. I think there is a lot of work collectively behind the scenes that would need to be done however we need to remember James Johnson has only been part of Football Australia for under a year. He might just be the person we need to ensure from an administrative point of view we stay on track and don’t fall into a honeymoon period as we did after the Socceroos won the Asian Cup with the Socceroos (the men’s Australian national football team).
For more information on The Ladies League, check out their website at http://www.theladiesleague.com/ and find their podcast at all the usual podcast subscription sites.
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