Matildas hosts Olympic gold medalists Canada as part of ‘Festival of Codes’ at revamped Sydney Football Stadium

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

The second of the two games, scheduled for September 6, will be a particularly special occasion as it has been chosen by the New South Wales government to assist in the opening of the new $828 million Sydney Football Stadium and 42,500 seats as part of a “Festival of Codes” announced on Thursday.

Two other high profile matches have also been 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 current world number one , South Africa the next day. †

After several setbacks, the new Sydney Football Stadium will be completed at the end of August.Delivered: Infrastructure NSW

Furthermore, the organizers will be throwing the stadium doors open 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 several hitches after the old stadium was closed. demolished .

For Matildas forward Kyah Simon – who currently plays for England’s Tottenham Hotspur – the invitation to open the stadium is a testament to how much women’s football has grown in just a few years.

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

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

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

While the Matildas last faced Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Canada’s last visit to Australia was in 2008, before most of the current Australian senior team had won green and gold.

Katrina Gorry fights for the ball
This will be the first time the Matildas will face Olympic gold medalists Canada in Australia since 2016.AP: 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. We played quite well that night,” Walsh recalls.

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

“We didn’t find out through X-rays until the next day. I was actually on crutches with my flight [to Vietnam] still ready to go so they had to replace me I believe by Leena Khamis or Joey Burgess.

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

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Aside from the broken leg, Walsh recalls how little interest there was in women’s football at the time: the lack of media coverage, how few fans were in the stands, how rare it was to play in world-class stadiums that are now becoming the norm.

Walsh looked out at the gleaming new Sydney Football Stadium, all steel and glass, and reflected on how facilities and matches like these are all part of the legacy the 2023 Women’s World Cup will leave on Australian football.

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

“The fact that the Matildas are allowed to open this facility is incredible. There were many teams and games that they could have opened with, but they chose us – Australia’s most beloved sports team.

“These milestone moments and opportunities to create a platform and talk about the real issues impacting our game, such as the lack of community facilities or not being up to standard, are important.

Also part of FA’s broader strategy is to keep more national team matches out of major cities to highlight the need for more infrastructure investment in areas that don’t receive the same government funding or media coverage, with the location of the first Canada friendly on September 3 not yet announced.

A sports stadium with fans wearing yellow during a nighttime game
The Matildas played 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 bring the Matildas to all parts of Australia,” said Walsh.

“You’re going to see that through the international windows leading up to the World Cup. We’ve been to Townsville, we’ve been to Canberra.

“It was honestly some of the most exciting matches because you will see – more often than not – those areas have been starved by not only big events, but [also] of major women’s events.

“We’re not going to be Sydney-centric. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to kick-start the runway to the World Cup, so while we’re super excited to be playing one of the games in this series here, you can’t see us move outside of Sydney for some future games.”

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