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More focus on the women, please!

by Ashley Morrison on Jan 13, 2012

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On the 30th of November last year FFA CEO Ben Buckley shared his vision for the future of Australian football with the fans around the country.

The opening line in this vision was, the ‘development of a football culture ingrained with unique Australian characteristics.’

I have been an Australian citizen for almost quarter of a century, and I was not sure what those characteristics were, I still am not.

I do know that Australians never give up, they are renowned for battling against the odds, and frequently overcoming them and they don’t like losing.

In the targets section of the vision document, the goals were for the Socceroos to make the last 16 at the 2014 World Cup, to win the Asian Cup in 2015 in Australia, and gain a top 10 ranking with FIFA and average a place in the top 20.

The Matildas – so far our most successful international team – are expected to defend their Asian  Cup crown. They are expected to qualify for the Women’s World cup and hold onto their top 10 ranking.

The financial support and investment in the two teams does not warrant comparison, as it would be embarrassing.

What is slightly upsetting for those who love the game as a whole, men’s women’s futsal et al, is the failure to recognise that the Matildas probably offer Australia it’s best chance of claiming a world title.

In the vision there is no expectation that the team should progress from the group stage at the next World Cup. There is no expectation that the youngest team in the tournament last year should mature and become realistic title contenders in the next four years, despite what pundits at the World Cup believed.

This must be a body blow for all concerned with the women’s game. However if you follow the W-League it would not surprise any fan that these expectations are so low.

The W-League is floundering in terms of standards. Sure it has been a close competition this year between four teams at the top, but the teams at the bottom are light years away from being competitive.

What is sad is how some of those who shone for the Matildas in Germany have allowed their own standards to dip once back in their domestic league.

There is a lack of professionalism within the league in some quarters that will prevent Australia fulfilling the potential they showed in 2011. Some will say there is also a lack of funds, which may also be the case, but remember we are talking about “Australian characteristics.”

As stated on my return from Germany, the FFA has to deliver these top women more football. They have to ensure that they continue to stay in peak condition, stay focused and continue to have the desire to reach for the pinnacle.

There are simply not enough games in the W-League for these girls to improve and stay in tune. So what can be done? Would it be worth considering having them play in state league competitions, not necessarily Premier League, but a level where they are being challenged physically and tactically?

There is no question something has to be done to address this or these young ladies will simply live up to the vision revealed in November, when in truth they have the potential to easily surpass such conservative goals. If we do nothing we will look back and judge this group of talented women as never fulfilling their potential, when in truth it will be those charged with administering the game who will have failed them.