WESTERN Australia’s footballing community will receive a shot in the arm from Perth’s involvement in the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
With FIFA president Giannai Infantino’s proclamation Australia and New Zealand’s joint bid for the 2023 tournament had emerged victorious, a newfound sense of optimism and excitement and swept the nation.
While it will be sometime until the exact details of the schedule are released, Perth’s HBF Park is locked in to host roughly four or five games, with at least one of those games to likely be a knockout round clash.
Financially, Perth will share in a slice of revenue expected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars with its tourism industry expected to receive a healthy boost, pending the return of international travel by then.
From a football perspective, there is already a buzz in the air about the chance to witness some of the game’s best players.
One of those players is Perth product and Matildas captain Sam Kerr, who told reporters last week representing her country in her home town at a World Cup would be a dream come true.
“I’ve played at HBF Park a million times and scored some of my favourite goals here so I’d play here over anywhere,” she said.
“Someone asked me would I rather go to an Olympics or a World Cup and I said World Cup. This is the pinnacle of our sport, I’d take a World Cup medal over an Olympic medal any day.
“A lot of people have said Australia’s not a footballing nation and I think we’re going to show them that’s wrong and football is on the rise.”
A home World Cup will also give the Matildas the chance to inspire the next generation and Kerr was cognisant of the potential boost the tournament would provide.
“I’m still inspired by Cathy Freeman at the 2000 Olympics, so to think that our team and myself could be someone that young people are going to look up to in 20 years is an amazing feeling.”
After years of campaigning, Football West’s planned $32 million state-of-the-art ‘Home of Football’ facility was recently green-lit by the state government and will be utilised as a training base during the tournament.
However, its legacy will live on after the World Cup as an administration home for Football West and a centre of excellence for junior players.
Despite the tight deadline, Football West chief executive James Curtis said he had no doubt the facility would be ready in time.
“The state government’s leading that project in the moment and its pretty much all hands on deck to get it delivered. At the moment, community consultations are being undertaken and then we’ll be going through that planning process.
“It’s an absolute priority both from the Women’s World Cup perspective as, and then also to support the COVID-19 recovery as well, so I’ve got no doubt that will be delivered in time.”
Curtis said the appetite from the Perth football community to play some part in hosting teams either prior to or during the tournament was evident during the bidding process.
One such club poised to play a big part is Cockburn City Soccer Club, whose home ground Dalmatinac Park was listed as one of Perth’s two proposed training bases within the bid book.
Cockburn has a rich history of producing Matildas across all age groups, including the national team’s all-time top scorer Lisa De Vanna and Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Ella Mastrantonio.
The club also boasts former Perth Glory midfielder Marianna Tabain and current Young Matildas Hana Lowry and Leticia and Tijan McKenna among their alumni.
Cockburn City president Heidi Lazzaro said the opportunity to bring world class footballers to their doorstep in 2023 would have a profound impact at grassroots level.
“It will inspire a lot more of the younger girls because the women’s game is becoming such a focus, and it’s allowing girls to see the opportunity that they have got to represent Australia,” she said.
“I think it will create hopefully more of an influx of young girls coming through, knowing that there is definitely a pathway and an opportunity for them.”
Lazzaro confirmed Dalmatinac Park would need some upgrades, such as improved change rooms, but as currently fit most of the criteria.