Wikinews interviews former Matilda's player Sarah Walsh about Australian women's soccer

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Earlier this week, Wikinews interviewed Sarah Walsh, a former Australian women's national soccer team (Matilidas) player, about women's football in the country.

The Australian women's team is currently ranked ninth by FIFA, down one spot from the previous quarter when they were tied at eighth with the North Korea women's national football team. Meanwhile, Australia's men (Socceroos) are currently ranked 59th in the world, between the Burkina Faso and Slovakia national football team. Walsh retired from the national team in September of last year, after scoring 32 goals in 71 appearances. She was on Matildas side that qualified for the World Cup for the first time while playing in the Asian Football Confederation instead of the Oceania Football Confederation. She also played in two World Cup quarter-finals for the team. Playing in Australia's top level domestic league, the W-League, she won the league championship in 2009. She retired from the league this year. Walsh played professionally in the United States for Sky Blue FC and Saint Louis Athletica.

Sarah Walsh playing for the Matilidas against Italy in a friendly international in 2009.
Image: Camw.

((WN)) : The Socceroos are ranked 59th by FIFA. The Matildas are ranked 8th by FIFA in the latest rankings. Should media coverage correlate to team performance and internationally rankings? Is there an element of tall poppy syndrome in the coverage of the Socceros? What other factors can be used to explain the relative differences in media attention other than performance?

Sarah Walsh: Traditionally in Australia, male sports have dominated media coverage. Slowly we are seeing women's sports feature more frequently in mainstream media publications. There is a growing interest in women's sports, especially women's national teams in general here in Australia. With time, the public will be exposed to more female sports on a daily basis and perhaps will build the same affections for these female sports. As a teenager, I was exposed to NRL living in Sydney, so naturally I have a strong interest in this game along with football (soccer). Young female teenagers today, have the option to turn the TV on and watch the W-league and follow their heroes. I believe in 5–10 years' time we will see a cultural change with regards to media coverage and gender bias.

((WN)) : What's the difference in style of play between the men and women's national teams?

Sarah Walsh: Men
They appear to play a possession-based game working at effective possession combined with a developing system of pressing using our natural athleticism and high work rate as well as our cultural mental strength.
Sarah Walsh: Women
The women seem to employ a more defensive and well organized "block" making it hard for teams to play through particularly in the middle and our back thirds utilizing transitional moments (BPO – BP) to good effect with quick attacks through the natural speed of certain players.

((WN)) : Why are the Matildas more successful in international competitions and ranking wise than the Socceroos?

Sarah Walsh: There could be a number of contributing factors. One in particular could be dues to financial reasons. Given there is more financial support for men's national teams globally in general, I believe the competition across the board is more extensive. Due to this, there are more teams that compete at a higher level, so effectively this would make it difficult for the Socceroos to reach the same ranking as Matildas.

((WN)) : Why do you think men don't watch the Matildas in the same numbers as they watch the Socceroos?

Sarah Walsh: Answer similar to question 1.

((WN)) : Does the media feed into traditional Australian gender stereotypes by not covering elite women's sports?

Sarah Walsh: Similar to question 1.

((WN)) : What is your role in sports? Journalist? Academic? Sport administrator? Player? Please provide one to two sentence biography to contextualize your answers.

Sarah Walsh: I started playing football at 5 years of age. I made my debut for the Matildas at 21 (2004–2012) I have spent the past two years working in community football at FFA delivering a Drug and Alcohol program. I am currently the Women's Football Coordinator and Female Elite Player mentor at FFA. Actually on wikipedia if you would like to cut and paste all that info!


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.