Thursday 27 July 2023, 05:30

Van Egmond: The World Cup gives children something to aspire to

In a time marked by conflict and crisis, the world is divided. But through the power of football, the FIFA Women's World Cup™ will bring people together, allowing them to unite - discovering new cultures, as part of a worldwide community and celebrating together. FIFA's flagship campaign, Football Unites the World is a global movement that will inspire, unite and drive development through football, with FIFA Legends sharing stories of what football's uniting power means to them. In the run-up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, we caught up with Australia midfielder Emily van Egmond to hear about her memories.

Football has been part of Van Egmond’s life since she was born, quite literally. Father Gary represented Australia at the 1988 Men’s Olympic Football Tournament. Gary had just won the Australian national league title as a player just a few months prior to Emily’s birth, and by the time she was a teenager he was a national championship-winning coach. Suffice to say, Emily not only had a ball at her feet at a young age, but she soon gained an insight into the global nature and appeal of football. Stints in Germany, Denmark, England and USA added further enlightenment into football’s wide-ranging ability to unite.

Now, Van Egmond’s own journey comes full circle as she features for the co-hosts at Australia and New Zealand 2023. And, Van Egmond says, the tournament could even eclipse what is arguably Australia’s most recognisable global sporting moment. “As a kid watching the 2000 Olympics in Australia, we watched the likes of [400m track and field gold medallist] Cathy Freeman, and you know, that changed sport in general forever in Australia,” she said. “The World Cup gives children something to aspire to and to watch their idols on home soil. When I was a kid growing up I didn’t really have that opportunity so for the young girls and even boys that are going to be in the stands, I hope we give them a memory that’s going to last a lifetime and something for them to aspire to for their future endeavours.”

W41 v W42: Quarter Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 - 27-Jun, 2015

Unsurprisingly football has helped created a bond, rare even by usual father-daughter relationships. Both Olympians, Van Egmond senior was also assistant coach of the Matildas for a lengthy period. “We experienced an Olympics together so that’s something I’ll definitely hold forever grateful in my heart. It’s surreal sometimes but I’m just fortunate, again, to have had him in my corner and to have him help me get to where I am today. “From a young age to now he’s been my biggest ‘why’ and the reason I’ve had the career I’ve had so far and it’s a special moment not only for me but also my family: that they’re going to be able to experience me representing Australia on home soil, so I can’t wait to do the nation, but also my family, proud.”

Turned 30 the week prior to the Opening Match, Van Egmond is now, remarkably, in her 14th year donning the green and gold. In that time, she has seen the popularity of the Matildas enjoy a stratospheric ascension. “To see how far it has come is awesome, and I think this is just a time now, one for the team when we’re going to be able to soak up and enjoy, but also to give back to the nation,” she said. “I hope this changes women’s football globally, not only in Australia. It’s already changed so much and it’s growing at a rapid rate, and if we continue to keep going on that upward trajectory I think we’re heading in the right direction and I think for women’s sports in general around the world it’s an exciting future. “Football is just a great sport that I think brings many people around the world together."