Tuesday 01 August 2023, 09:00

Matildas make their mark in Malaysia

  • The Australian High Commission in Malaysia organized an event in Kuala Lumpur to watch the Canada-Australia match.

  • Its aim is to promote the country and the women's game beyond Australia's borders.

  • "I believe this World Cup is a horizon-changing event for Australia," said Dr. Steven Barraclough.

When Australia and New Zealand were appointed to host the 2023™ FIFA Women's World Cup one of the main issues they started working on was legacy.

A legacy that apart from focusing on tangible aspects such as infrastructure improvements and equipment contributions, also had its focus on promoting the co-host countries and the women's game around the world.

Following this idea, the Australian High Commission in Malaysia decided to do its bit by organizing an event in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. The aim was to broadcast the match between Canada and Australia on the third day of the group stage so that people from all countries and fans could gather in one place to watch it. They certainly succeeded.

It was a happy ending for both the organisers and the Matildas. They won over new fans thanks to a 4-0 win and a place in the last 16. For a country like Malaysia where soccer has such a strong following it was a good place to promote the women's game.

"I love organizing these events, that people come and can enjoy the universal language of football. It's so special because Australia and New Zealand are hosting the Women's World Cup, and you can see how big it's getting, the spirit... The Australian public is absolutely crazy about the tournament," Dr. Steven Barraclough, a senior official at the Australian High Commission, told FIFA.com about the organization of the event.

Bringing that love of women's soccer to Malaysia was another aim of the event, exporting the Matildas' popularity back home. "In Australia, the women's team is more successful than the men's team. The players' names are as well known as those of the top male players," he reflected proudly.

Dr. Steven Barraclough is mindful of the legacy that the FIFA Women's World Cup can leave in both Australia and neighboring countries.

"The World Cup is a horizon-changing event for Australia, for our government and in how we see ourselves in the world. And hopefully for other countries in our region and our area as well. That they are aware of the importance of the tournament and how positive it is going to become."

Before greeting the guests, Dr. Steven Barraclough left a clear message: "It's women's footba, let's celebrate it and support it. It's a fantastic product and a great way to connect with people living overseas and Australians living in Kuala Lumpur. At the High Commission it's a chance to showcase Australia as a country that supports women's soccer."

Among the guests, Soleen Al-Zou'bi, Head of Women's Football at the Malaysian Football Federation and coach of the women's national football team, stood out above all others. "It's very important for us that she's here," said Dr. Steven Barraclough.

"This is the first Women's World Cup that I live in Malaysia and this kind of event means that people are now serious about women's football and want to promote it," stressed Soleen, who took up her duties at the Malaysian Federation in November 2022.

Soleen Al-Zou'bi, Head of Women's Football in FAM and Women's National Team coach

A former coach of the Jordan women's national team, where she was also in charge of women's football, her experience makes her an authoritative voice when talking about women's football. "If we compare the Women's World Cup with the men's World Cup, the promotion of the latter is very beautiful and spectacular. But we are seeing that women's football is also going in that direction. People care and want to organize events. It's very positive.

She was also asked about how she looks at the tournament as a coach. "It's not a dream, it's what we are working for. It may take time, of course, but we have just started. Malaysian women's football has great potential to one day make it to the World Cup. We are working on planning a long-term strategy to achieve that.

"We see two Southeast Asian teams, Vietnam and the Philippines, participating in the World Cup - why not us? That's what we are working on. I promise you, it's not a dream, it's something we will make happen," she concluded.