Undeniably, Australia is at a fever pitch as it gears up to jointly host the upcoming Women’s World Cup 2023. With a fondness for sports like rugby, cricket, and the uniquely brutal “Aussie rules,” the nation has always relished its sporting heroes. Now, soccer is stealing the spotlight, with Samantha “Sam” Kerr, the dynamic 29-year-old forward, at the forefront.
Kerr, the leading light of the Matildas, has a knack for making headlines with her extraordinary goal-scoring prowess and unmistakable enthusiasm on the field. She is widely revered among Australian sports figures, boasting an impressive list of accolades and even the honor of hoisting Australia’s flag at the ascension of King Charles III in May.
The clock is ticking down to what could be the pinnacle of her career. Australia and New Zealand will jointly host the World Cup, kicking off on July 20, with Australia’s squad, currently ranked 10th globally, pitted against Canada, Ireland, and Nigeria in Group B. Matches are set to take place in five Australian cities.
Kerr and her compatriots are aware of the profound impact the coming weeks may have. She shared with FIFA’s official website that she aspires for a “Cathy Freeman moment,” a nod to the legendary Indigenous Australian sprinter who won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and became an enduring national hero.
Kerr’s influence extends to younger generations. In a recent conversation at a Melbourne soccer club called Beaumaris, 10-year-old Connie Ruigrok exclaimed her admiration for Kerr, emphasizing how she “doesn’t care about the money” and “just cares about having fun.” Her team eagerly awaits the chance to cheer on the Matildas in the World Cup.
The local club has seen a significant surge in female participation over the past decade. Club president, Joe Mottola, credits the change to a growing enthusiasm for women’s soccer, predicting that the upcoming World Cup would further increase interest.
Football Australia aims to achieve gender equality in the sport. Although women currently comprise approximately a quarter of Australia’s over 1 million soccer players aged 15 and above, the tides are changing. Kerr’s rise to fame has played an instrumental role in challenging long-held gender stereotypes in sports.
Similarly inspired are adult women from across the globe who’ve joined Dynamo Victoria women’s soccer club in Melbourne. The club plans to witness some of the World Cup games together in Melbourne, fostering a sense of unity and celebration of women’s soccer.
According to Football Australia, ticket sales for the 2023 World Cup across Australia and New Zealand have exceeded one million, positioning the event to potentially become the most-attended stand-alone women’s sporting event in history. Adding to the fervour, betting sites as featured on Aussiebet.com have been ramping up their promotion of the matches. These platforms are not only fostering a deeper engagement with the tournament but also creating a lively betting scene with USA, England, and Spain leading as the bookies’ top picks.
Australia’s government has heavily invested in women’s soccer, dedicating over $138 million to its promotion and development. This includes the recent launch of the “Home of the Matildas” complex in Melbourne, boasting four pitches and state-of-the-art training facilities.
Get To Know Sam Kerr
Kerr’s journey into soccer was somewhat unexpected. Initially, her heart was set on Australian rules football, following in her father and brother’s footsteps. However, the lack of opportunities for girls in the sport led her to pursue soccer instead.
Kerr’s soccer career took off rapidly, representing Australia by the age of 15. Currently, she is Australia’s top scorer of all time. She has made her mark in club competition, too, leading in goal scores in the United States National Women’s Soccer League and twice in the UK’s Women’s Super League, where she currently plays for Chelsea.
Kerr is the only woman to have clinched a Golden Boot on three different continents. Her fame soared when her backflip images were projected onto the Sydney Opera House’s sails in 2020 upon the announcement of Australia co-hosting the World Cup. Her charismatic confidence has also contributed to her popularity. Sophie Kirton, a new soccer fan and a devoted Kerr follower, echoes the sentiments of many Australians when she says, “She’s pretty much magic to watch.”