Thursday 20 July 2023, 09:15

Duggan: Learn to live the game for life and love it

  • Amy Duggan is a former Australia defender and current Football Australia board member

  • Participated in March’s Women in Football Leadership Programme

  • Post-FIFA Women’s World Cup legacy boost planned Down Under

Football has been ever-present in Amy Duggan’s life since she first kicked a ball aged twelve-years-old. An eight-year international career representing Australia was followed by a busy post-playing career working as a football and sports TV presenter, and now, also includes a role helping drive growth of the game as a Football Australia board member. Fast forward a couple of decades since that first love affair with the round ball at school and 2023 is - in terms of broad-ranging football experiences - a year like no other for Duggan. Australia are about to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience by co-hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, with Duggan’s beloved Matildas part of the opening day action on 20 July. Away from the pitch, Duggan had the rare opportunity to work with like-minded football souls from all corners of the globe at the FIFA's Women in Football Leadership Programme in March. Along with 35 other women, Duggan was invited to attend the fourth edition of the programme which is a joint FIFA and UEFA initiative with the aim of helping promote women in football leadership positions.

For Duggan, the four-day course was an inspirational experience and one that also delivered friendships to last a lifetime. “[The week was] all about learning about myself but also meeting people from all over the world, gathering new friendships, new relationships, new information, better ways to do things and [it’s] about creating a network as well,” she said. “I think the course for me, and the network, and hearing the stories of like-minded women in leadership roles from right around the globe was quite eye-opening in some respects,” she said. “In some places we’re doing things great, and in other places we’re still lagging behind by quite a lot, and a lot of work needs to be done. “But to be able to build this sisterhood, as we like to call it, and continue to talk to each other and to support each other, through the challenges that we have, but also to celebrate success, is absolutely outstanding. And we do keep in touch on WhatsApp through the group, so I’m very, very lucky to have been with the group that I had and I hope to call them friends for life.”

Amy Duggan, Football Australia Board Director during the Women's Football Leadership Programme Lausanne

“As a leader in football, my job is to be a guardian of the game and to ensure it continues to grow and continues to be successful and get better for the next generations. It’s also to teach people and inspire them to live and love the game for life. “Football is the global game, isn’t it? There isn’t another language like it, except for perhaps love. It doesn’t matter where you travel around the world, or if it’s for football or not, you will find somebody who speaks the language of football somewhere. “It is a sport that unites everybody, regardless of your background, regardless of your socio-economic upbringing, and regardless of your culture, and it allows us to learn from each other in that regard and we make friends right around the globe because of it.”

Duggan remains awestruck by the growth of the game Down Under since she started out as a teenager during the late 1990s in the former Women’s National Soccer League, where matches were often played before crowds numbering little more than family and friends. That spectacular trajectory will reach a barely dreamt-of high when 32 nations representing world football’s elite arrive for Australia & New Zealand 2023. For all that immediate excitement, the Canberra-raised former defender says building long-term growth beyond the tournament is a key focus through the national body’s Legacy ’23 programme. “The Australian game has grown amazingly over the last 20 years, and in fact has had rocket boosters on probably for the last five years, and certainly since the Women’s World Cup was announced here three years ago,” she said. “There have been some great things that Football Australia and Australian football are doing to support women in leadership roles.

“As far as the players go, we have professional athletes in our country now, which is something that my generation could have only dreamed of, and again I hope that that rise to professionalism continues to roll forward and we see improved facilities, not just at the elite level but also as we go down the tree into the grassroots. “It's really important that women from the age of five right through to 50 continue to feel supported and have adequate facilities in our game. It’s about young girls and young boys, and those currently in the game, continue to play the game. “If you don't want to play the game anymore, that’s okay too. But if it’s in your blood, like it is for so many of us, stick around the game, referee, become a volunteer, become an administrator. Just learn to live the game for life and love it.”