Trophy sparkles Down Under

Australian football is on a high after victory in last month’s AFC Asian Cup on home soil. In fact, the Socceroos’ achievement is a hurdle the nation’s women’s team have already scaled. The Matildas became the first Australian side to be crowned Asia’s best with a landmark win in 2010.

Now the Aussies are chasing another dream – glory at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Canada this June/ July. And some of the Matildas had a chance to get up and close and personal with the silverware they will be chasing in Canada when the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 Live Your Goals tour made its latest stop in Melbourne over the weekend.

Sandwiched between stops in Auckland and Bangkok, the tour is visiting all member associations that have qualified for Canada 2015 building hype for a tournament which kicks off in just over four months. Saturday saw a formal event take place at Crown Casino on the banks of Melbourne’s Yarra River. While Sunday was a very different affair with a Live Your Goals festival held, the second such event to be conducted in Australia.

In touching distance of a dream Saturday’s event featured a host of local luminaries and special guests including Australia coach Alen Stajcic; Football Federation Australia (FFA) Head of Community and Women’s Football Emma Highwood; and co-opted member of the FIFA Executive Committee, Chairwoman of the FIFA Task Force for Women’s Football, AFC Vice-President, former Matilda and FFA Board Member, Moya Dodd.

But for a trio of attendees, the presence of the trophy perhaps had an extra resonance. Australia goalkeeper Brianna Davey, full-back Steph Catley and midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight were all on hand with the trio set to be key figures for the Matildas come June. And for Kellond-Knight, a classy ball-playing left-footer who impressed on her Women’s World Cup debut four years ago in Germany, the trophy was a tangible and even emotional reminder of what lays ahead.

“Being up close and personal with the trophy gave us goosebumps,” Kellond-Knight told FIFA.com. “We spoke about it being the pinnacle, and that is why we train and devote so much time to football… to try and achieve such goals

“It is the first time I have seen the trophy in real life. We are not allowed to touch it. That would be bad luck I think anyway, but being up close to the trophy made it quite real. And it cemented what we are striving for.

The following day was a chance to have a kick with the stars of tomorrow under an azure Melbourne summer sky. Over 100 young female players were on hand to enjoy everything football has to offer, and also meet the headline names of the women’s game Down Under.

“I always love engaging with young players and the grassroots,” said Kellond-Knight. “It reminds you why you play football, and brings you down to earth you could say. It is always fun hanging out and having a kick with young kids.”

Canada dreaming For many, Kellond-Knight included, the trip to North America will be a first visit to Canada, one of the strongholds of women’s football. “We got some more information about the tournament, with ticket sales very strong, and finding out just how big this event will be,” Kellond-Knight said. “The tournament is getting close now, really creeping up on us. To see the trophy and hear more about the organisation going into the event was really exciting.”

If last year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada is any gauge, then this year’s event is set to be a landmark spectacle. “The FIFA Women's World Cup will be the biggest show on earth from June 6 until July 5,” Dodd told FIFA.com. “And it was great for Australians to get a glimpse of the trophy.

“Canada, like Australia, is a multicultural country, as are their neighbours in the USA, so I'm sure we will see plenty of support for every nation represented. I'm sure all Australians are looking forward to supporting the Matildas in June.”