Matildas to Host Canada’s Olympic Gold Medalists as Part of ‘Festival of Codes’ at Renovated Sydney Football Stadium

Five months after last playing at home, the Matildas will return to Australia in early September to face Olympic gold medalists and world number six Canada in a two-game friendly series as the two teams continue to prepare for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. July.

The second of two games, scheduled for September 6, will be a particularly special occasion, as he has been chosen by the New South Wales government to help open Sydney’s new $828million football stadium and 42,500 places as part of a “Festival of Codes” announced Thursday.

Two other high-profile games were also chosen to celebrate the stadium’s completion: an all-Sydney NRL affair between the Roosters and South Sydney on September 2, followed by a rugby test between the Wallabies and the current world no. South Africa the next day. .

After several setbacks, the new football stadium in Sydney will be completed at the end of August.(Provided: NSW Infrastructure)

Additionally, organizers will open the gates to the stadium on August 28 for a free Community Day, inviting sports fans to finally experience the new home of the Roosters, NSW Waratahs and Sydney FC three years and a number of duds after the demolition of the old stadium. .

For Matildas striker Kyah Simon – who currently plays with Tottenham Hotspur in England – being asked to open the stadium is a testament to the growth of women’s football in just a few years.

“The last time we played [at the SFS] was with Melbourne City, it was a grand final here and the crowd would have been around…5,000?” Simon told ABC.

“We always like to play in big stadiums that are sold out, not just big stadiums with empty seats. Playing in a brand new stadium like this later this year, and against quality opposition in Canada, I think it’s going to be huge for us.

“And, if we can get a good result, we can create that hype and get everyone excited, especially people who may not come to the game but watch it on TV and watch it and say, ‘ I want to be there ‘.”

While the Matildas last faced Canada at the Rio Olympics in 2016, the last time Canada visited Australia was in 2008, before most members of the current Australian senior squad left. shot green and gold.

Katrina Gorry fights for the ball
It will be the first time the Matildas will face Olympic gold medalists Canada in Australia since 2016.(PA: Nelson Antoine)

One person who remembers that day, however, is former Matilda Sarah Walsh, currently Head of Women’s Football, Legacy and Inclusion at Football Australia (FA).

Unfortunately, she remembers Canada for all the wrong reasons.

“We were preparing for the 2008 Asian Cup in Vietnam and we had a very healthy squad at the time. We played pretty well that night,” Walsh recalled.

“But I went into a tackle that I probably shouldn’t have made…and I broke my leg.

“We only found out the next day through x-rays. I was basically on crutches with my flight [to Vietnam] always ready to go, so they had to replace me, I think with Leena Khamis or Joey Burgess.

“So it wasn’t a great night for me personally!”

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Beyond the broken leg, Walsh recalls the lack of interest in women’s football at the time: the lack of media coverage, the few fans in the stands, the scarcity of playing in world-class stadiums which are now becoming the norm.

Looking at Sydney’s new, all-steel and glass football stadium, Walsh reflected on how facilities and matches like these are all part of the legacy that the 2023 Women’s World Cup will leave in football. Australian.

“This place looks very different, and it’s nice. It’s a beautiful stadium. We’ve never had anything like it,” she said.

“The fact that the Matildas can open this facility is incredible. There were lots of teams and games they could have chosen to open with, but they chose us: Australia’s most loved sports team.

“These defining moments and opportunities to create a platform and talk about the real issues that affect our game – like the lack of community facilities or ones that are not up to standard – are important.

Another part of the FA’s wider strategy is to stage more national team matches outside major cities to highlight the need for more infrastructure investment in areas that don’t receive the same funding. governmental or media attention, with the location of the first friendly Canada on September 3, yet to be announced.

A sports stadium with supporters dressed in yellow during a night game
The Matildas took on New Zealand in a friendly in Townsville as part of the FA’s strategy to support regional football. (Getty Images: Albert Perez)

“We want to take the Matildas to all parts of Australia,” Walsh said.

“You’re going to start seeing that through international windows as we head into the World Cup. We’ve been to Townsville before, we’ve been to Canberra.

“They were honestly some of the most exciting games because you’ll find – more often than not – that these areas are starved of not just major events, but [also] major women’s events.

“We’re not going to be Sydney-centric. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to start the trail to the World Cup, so while we’re super excited to play one of the games in this series here, you’ we will see out of Sydney for a number of games to come.”

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