Perth is suffering a severe case of FIFA-fever this month, as the Matildas make their mark on the largest female sporting competition in the world.
According to Channel 7, the official broadcaster of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, more people viewed the Matildas versus Denmark game than last year’s AFL Grand Final.
Beyond smashing viewing records, the World Cup is having a more important effect closer to home.
Karen Hennessy is the founder of Women in Sport WA and works for Football West as a community participation officer for the Pilbara region.
She says it’s vital WA makes the most of the World Cup on its doorstep when it comes to women and girls playing the sport.
“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” she says.
“We need the facilities and the pitches that are going to be able to cope with the increase of these girls who are automatically going to want to play the sport.”
She says mitigating the dropout of girls in sports is vital in attracting and maintaining them in WA soccer programs.
“The key dropout ages are when they go from primary school to secondary school,” she says.
“It’s got to do with the uniforms that they wear and the body consciousness of when they hit puberty. The girls are changing at such a drastic rate that they’re so self-conscious, it’s hard.
“For government bodies, associations and schools I think it’s going to be down to a lot more pushing and promoting. Off the back of the World Cup, how do we look at advocacy for women and girls in sports? How do we see the warning signs of these girls that are thinking about dropping off and keep them there?”
President of the South Perth Football Club Soly Sindhe says the FIFA Women’s World Cup has provided an important boost to local clubs and created a buzz.
“We’ve previously struggled to fill junior teams for girls, as we often lose players to sports such as netball,” she says.
President of the Curtin University football club Campbell Ballantyne says they’ve been using the World Cup as an opportunity to recruit for their junior teams.
As an incentive, the club is offering free registration until the end of the World Cup, allowing girls to come and try out the sport without the signup fee.
Mr Ballantyne hopes to see an uptake in interest over the next week.