Football Federation Australia today celebrated the pioneers of Australian women’s football by marking the 40th anniversary of the first ‘A’ international football match in Sydney.
On 6 October 1979, the Matildas played New Zealand in their first full international at Seymour Shaw Park in Sydney, in a game that finished 2-2.
Forty years later, members of the first squad gathered today with the current Westfield Matildas at the venue to mark the occasion.
FFA Chairman Chris Nikou said it was time to recognise the contribution our first female national team representatives made to our game over many years.
“These athletes started a movement, not just a team, which has now become one of the most powerful, popular and recognisable in Australia.”
“Many of these women worked full time, while playing for the national team and for many years, this continued to be the case.”
“There have been 204 Matildas represent our country in ‘A’ internationals over the past 40 years and today we celebrate each of them and thank them for their contribution to our sport.
He added, “Later this month Cheryl Salisbury will become the first female footballer to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, which rightly recognises the sacrifices and efforts of our female footballers over this time.”
“Today many of our Westfield Matildas are full time professional footballers, many playing around the world and when they represent their national team today on home soil, it is in front of big crowds.”
“We recognise there is still work to do to ensure our female athletes have more opportunities on and off the park from the grassroots up to our national teams, but today we look back and celebrate the immense strides made.”
Julie Dolan AM, who was the captain of the team for the first ‘A’ international and was bestowed the honour of cap number one for the Matildas, said the team felt an enormous sense of responsibility walking out for that first game in 1979.
“Women’s football was something most people hadn’t heard of. I remember making fliers myself and dropping them off in the local area because I lived near Seymour Shaw Park, so we just wanted to get supporters there to watch us.”
“I love seeing where the game has gone and the progress it has made. To see these girls on the world stage, to see a strong Westfield W-League, that’s everything we dreamed of when we were playing. It gives you an enormous sense of pride because you feel like you have been part of establishing a legacy for women’s football,” she said.
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Elise Kellond-Knight, who has been capped 109 times for the Westfield Matildas, said it was an honour to share the occasion with the founding members of the women’s national team.
“Today presents a great opportunity to express some gratitude on behalf of the team. I think we all make sacrifices as Matildas, but I think what they sacrificed was to the extreme extent.”
“We’ve pushed the game to its limits, we’ve created a professional environment, we’re now full time professional athletes, we’re able to fill stadiums with tens of thousands of people, we’re accessible to fans now, we’ve got role models that are renowned around the world like Sam Kerr and we’re visible on TV.”
“And none of this would have been possible without the first generation of 1979 Matildas. On behalf of the current team, I want to say ‘thank you’” Kellond-Knight concluded.