He did not want to lose interest in sports ahead of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. They each put up a calendar with naked pictures on the market. Warren Fisher, president of the Australian Women’s Football Federation (AWSA), also actively supported the project. The national team needed attention and money. It was in 1995 that the team was nicknamed from the national folk song “Wolching Matilda” such as Arirang in Korea. He received the name “The Matildas” through a contest to raise the national team’s awareness even a little.
Four years later, in 1999, sponsorship was still low and media coverage was minimal. The players who were playing the national team without getting paid wanted to do something. The nude calendar project, a kind of fundraising activity, has sparked a sharp debate over the “sexual commercialization” of female athletes. Heather Reed (67), a former director of the Australian Football Association who was a member of the AWSA board at the time, was not happy with the idea. 24 years later, it is still uncomfortable to think that the players’ “sex” has been commercialized.
However, I now admit that it is the same event as an inflection point that raised the public awareness of the women’s national team, which had been at the bottom. Former director Reed said in a written interview with Yonhap News Agency on the 19th, “Unlike my concerns, the calendar shocked me a lot. “The name Matildas became known to the world,” he said. “All of a sudden, everyone talked about Matildas.” He is an administrator who has devoted himself to Australian women’s football for more than 40 years. In 2007, he was inducted into the Australian Football Association Hall of fame in recognition of his services, and also served as an executive of the association, including as vice president between 2018 and 2021.
Former director Reed, who watched the development of Australian women’s soccer in front of her eyes, still feels complicated about the calendar. In fact, it is said that the players did not make the level of profit they wanted. He also expressed his hope that South Korean players would not use such extreme methods. However, former director Reed pointed out that this calendar was an opportunity to show the importance of “recognition.”
“Now, 24 years later, everyone knows the Australian women’s team,” said Reed, a former director. The brand’s power continues to be strong, he said. “It is also thanks to the calendar, but it has happened since then as players have been exposed to the public more through mainstream media and social media.”
Australian women’s soccer has shown steady results since then. Until the 2003 U.S. World Cup, he was eliminated from the group stage as long as he participated, but since the 2007 Chinese Games, he has advanced to the quarterfinals for three consecutive times. It is noteworthy that the Australian women’s national team has accumulated “name values” beyond its performance.
Rugby and Australian football are more popular than soccer in Australia. However, it was the women’s soccer team that was selected as the most beloved national team in the 2019 market research organization True North Research. In other words, the women’s soccer team, which has never been ranked first in the world, has taken the position of the “national team.”
Former director Reed said, “The attention that players such as Sam Kerr (Chelsea) and Ellie Carpenter (Olinpike Lyon) are attracting is also considerable as they advance abroad. He also said, “As I started hosting the World Cup, I was mentioned a lot by the public,” adding, “I called in strong players such as Spain and France to Australia and played warm-up matches often.”
He then advised that the national team should be caught in the public eye as much as possible and that players should also have an opportunity to be recognized as “role models.” The best example he picked was Nuhaila Benzina in Morocco. Benzina appeared on the ground wearing a hijab in the group match against Korea at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. This is the first time in World Cup history.
Former director Reed believes that through this, Benzina would have been “sublimated” as a role model for some Muslim women. In addition, he pointed out that not only the World Cup but also the overseas advancement of individual players can be a good opportunity for this.
Former director Reed said, “I know that about 30 of the Australian national team players play overseas. In the past, the U.S. was the only league to advance, but now the English Women’s Super League (WSL) is also growing, he explained, “In other countries, opportunities have increased as they increase investment.”
He also mentioned Ji So-yeon (Suwon FC), the star of Korean women’s soccer. Former director Reed said, “I was impressed by South Korea’s soccer style and determination (at this World Cup),” adding, “There is definitely something the public can learn from star players such as Ji So-yeon, who played for Chelsea (England).”
Former director Reed is said to be surprised to learn that there are only about 1,500 female players registered with the Korea Football Association. “In Korea, don’t top female players play overseas?” he said. It is considered one of the “country of soccer,” and it is so different from the impression I received.
In fact, Korean women’s soccer is different from Australia. Although it reached the round of 16 for the first time in 2015, skepticism is also rising as the number of players has gradually decreased since then. Cho So-hyun (independent) said on the 1st, two days before the match against Germany, which ended in a 1-1 draw, “I think the number of players was about 1,700 when they advanced to the round of 16 at the World Cup, but this is the reality.” “I don’t know if the situation will change even if I do well,” he said.
Former director Reed stressed that active measures such as “the same prize money” advocated by the Australian Football Association are needed to change the difficult reality of women’s soccer. Australia insists that the World Cup prize money should be distributed to male and female players worldwide. However, FIFA believes it is too early as the marketability gap between men’s and women’s soccer is clear.
Former director Reed said there will be no change if he hesitates to “act” simply because of the current marketability. “The women’s soccer market is not big yet, but it’s growing at an alarming rate,” he said. On the other hand, men’s soccer is approaching the limit of development, he said. “If women’s soccer (in England, France, etc.) had not been banned for about 50 years, imagine how big it would have been now.”
The English Football Association and others banned the use of stadiums in the 1920s, saying soccer was not suitable for women, but it was not lifted until the 1970s. Former director Reed stressed that the success of Australian women’s football began with an accident that was not limited to the “market.”
“The Australian Football Association revised its articles of association in 2018, requiring the composition of the board of directors to consist of men (40%), women (40%), and third gender (20%), and this should also be considered when investing and applying for women’s football,” he said.
“(Women’s soccer development) may not be an easy path, but there are enough people in Korea to fight for it.” “I would recommend starting a change with star players who will speak out for their rights,” he said. “Sports reflect society.” 스포츠토토탑
Australian women’s soccer, which has strengthened its internal stability for 24 years since the nude calendar, eventually became a “big hit.” The World Cup semifinals against England attracted more than 7 million viewers from all over Australia, marking the highest record since the 2001 tally.
The scene was also a box office success. All three matches Australia played at Stadium Australia were sold out. The opening match against Ireland, the round of 16 against Denmark, and the semifinals against England all attracted 75,784 spectators.