WITH THE DEBATE over whether or not a Matildas World Cup triumph warrants a public holiday heating up in the parliamentary sphere, the biggest sporting event to grace our shores since the 2000 Olympics has ironically become a political football (pun intended).
The leader of the Coalition, Peter Dutton, has announced that the Liberal Party is against the proposed public holiday and slammed Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for trying to “make the Matildas’ success all about him.” Dutton’s stance comes after David Littleproud, the leader of the National Party, said he didn’t want to be “Captain Killjoy”, but also holds concerns over the costs of the holiday. Well, we’ve never heard of Captain Killjoy, but if he’s against public holidays, he might just be the worst superhero ever.
Dutton has announced an alternative to the Matildas’ public holiday, instead pledging $250 Million in funding to community sporting facilities, with a focus on improving the standards of women’s facilities. The funding would not be specific to women’s sports, but Dutton highlighted that attention needs to be given to sporting facilities’ the lack of female bathrooms and change rooms, and said these improvements would leave a “lasting legacy” in women’s sport.
There is a catch though, the funding will only arrive if the Coalition unseats Labor and wins the next election. So, it’s up to the Labor Government to make a similar pledge to give the people what they really want: a boost to women’s sports and a day off work.
The current back and forth debate began in June, when Albanese suggested that if the Matildas win the World Cup, he’d do everything in his power to lobby state premiers to call a public holiday in all states, he declared via The Daily Aus.
The prime minister told the ABC that if the Matilda’s were to go all the way, he believes there would be “a race” between the premiers to declare it the national public holiday.
“The states are in charge of public holidays … but I tell you what, it will be a time where we should celebrate as a nation if we win the World Cup,” he said, per the ABC. “That’ll certainly be my view, so I’ll put that very strongly.” So far, NSW Premier Chris Minns is the only state leader who has backed the idea.
Last month, the Matildas’ official Twitter account reiterated the want for some recognition should they pull off a feat that would crown them as champions of the world’s most popular sport.
“We think you’re onto something [Prime Minister],” the account tweeted. “How about calling a public holiday as a celebration of the [World Cup] bringing the most significant sporting event to Australia since Sydney 2000?”
Who do the Matilda’s play next?
Following their nail-biting penalty-shootout win against France, the Matildas play England tonight at 8pm AEST, August 16th at Sydney’s Stadium Australia—and you best believe that the whole nation will be tuning in. Should they defeat England, the Matildas will only be one win away from World Cup glory—and a public holiday—and will meet Spain in the final on Sunday, August 20th. Should the storybook run end tonight, they’ll play Sweden in the third place playoff on August 19th.
Will Sam Kerr play tonight?
The Matildas managed the absence of their talismanic striker and captain masterfully in the group stage. While she returned in a limited capacity for the teams last two games, fans will feel far more confident in the Matildas chances if Sam Kerr is on the field for the full 90 minutes (or more) tonight.
It is doubtful that there has ever been more attention on an athletes calves, but after injuring her left calf before the tournaments first match, the focus has now shifted to Kerr’s right calf after she was seen icing the muscle yesterday evening.
It’s unknown whether Kerr will be available to play the full game tonight, but Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson said he’s “not concerned” Kerr will miss the match entirely. “We will be talking tonight again about the best starting 11… there will be some tough decisions again,” Gustavsson said. “But Sam is definitely available for selection.”
So, can the Matilda’s actually win the World Cup?
“The cool thing about our team is that most of us have played at two or three World Cups, Olympics, and major tournaments where the pressure to perform is constantly there. Being in these types of moments, in front of huge crowds, sets you up for these moments,” Steph Catley told Esquire earlier this year.
“[And] I think our team is positioned to thrive, more so than we’ve ever been.”
The Matildas have been knocking on the door of greatness for quite some time. The semi-finals is already the furthest the team has gone any World Cup tournament, and with a star-studded squad, an impressive recent run of form, and the ability to beat any team on any given day, anything is possible.
The Matildas still aren’t the odds-on favourites to win the World Cup, but just two wins away from glory, with home-field advantage and the entire nation behind them, they absolutely have every chance of winning the tournament and solidifying a legacy that will be spoken of for generations to come.
Let’s bring home that World Cup (and hopefully a public holiday), Matildas!