What an incredible four weeks of football the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ has been.
You don’t need to turn any further than Brisbane’s Riverstage to understand the impact. 4481 fans packed onto the grass to say thank you to their heroes barely half a day after seeing them take the pitch against Sweden.
“They’ve shifted the goalposts,” one fan explained when asked what brought them to Riverstage. “They’ve made everyone across all generations fall in love with football. We couldn’t be more proud of them, they’re amazing.”
This World Cup has represented a seismic shift in football in this country. Before the month of the tournament, the biggest crowd for a women’s football game in Australia was 36,109 against the USA in November 2021. The record was broken in the send-off game against France on July 14, which was played in front of 50,629 fans.
Now, there have been five women’s football games at a sold-out Stadium Australia in front of 75,784, three of which involved the CommBank Matildas. There have been eight more games at Brisbane Stadium averaging around 45,000 fans. In every game across Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne involving Australia, the stadium was full.
This is all before you get to the fans watching on TV. Overall, the tournament reached 18.6 million different people on Seven alone. The CommBank Matildas' quarter-final against France reached 7.2 million people but the semi-final became the biggest television event in over two decades, reaching over 11 million people.
Those are the tangible figures. They are the statistics you can reference, the cold, hard figures that indicate how successful the tournament has been. They are huge by themselves, but to understand the impact that the team has had, you have to look further.
You have to look to the full fan sites, pubs, and lounge rooms. Whole streets coming out to watch games on a projector. People who have never watched football before embracing the tournament. Players like Mackenzie Arnold, Cortnee Vine, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Mary Fowler becoming household names.
There is just a feeling in the air around these sorts of big events. Every newspaper filled with headlines about the CommBank Matildas. Not only were the stadiums, live sites and pubs a sea of green and gold, just walking down the street you'd see a CommBank Matildas' scarf on one side, and a beanie on the other.
Fans embraced the team like they never have before, creating cherished memories that will last a lifetime.
Coach Tony Gustavsson spoke extensively throughout the tournament of the ‘why’ being more important to the team than results alone. They wanted to leave a legacy, to inspire a nation and to change women’s football in this country forever.
Despite not leaving with a medal, it is fair to say that they achieved their bigger goal.
There is no one better to sum up the mood of the nation than a young fan who turned up to Riverstage on Sunday morning.
“We’re so proud of you and how far you’ve come. You’ve inspired all of us. We just want to thank you.”
For football in this country, this is only the beginning.