The relative success and high profile of the Matildas have masked problems in the lower levels of women’s football in Australia.
But that may change after Football Federation Australia (FFA) secured over half a million dollars in funding from world governing body FIFA for a program to target grass-roots women’s football development.
Ranked No.9 in the world after finishing runners up in this year’s women’s Asian Cup, the Matildas go into next year’s World Cup as genuine contenders.
But while the 2015 Women’s World Cup will be Australia’s sixth consecutive appearance, the national teams at under-20 and under-17 level are lagging far behind.
Australia did not qualify for the current under-20 showpiece, or the previous three editions, and they’ve never booked a place in any of the three under-17 women’s World Cup tournaments to date.
On Monday the FFA announced they will pour the $536,000 in FIFA funding they have been awarded into their national women and girls football development Program.
The majority of the money will go towards employing nine development officers who will begin immediately to implement a variety of grass-roots initiatives including a female skills acquisition program while a women’s coaching mentoring program will also be established.
The funding was awarded as part of the FIFA Goal program and was the first time a women’s development initiative was chosen as the recipient.
FIFA development officer Domeka Garamendi said it was the wholistic nature of the FFA’s proposal that won them over.
“It was a comprehensive approach to development because without good coaches you can’t have good players and without good referees you can’t have good matches for them to play,” he told AAP.
“It was outside-the-box thinking so that’s why we said this was a good program.
“Long term we would like to see Australia as a regular participant in all our World Cups from the senior, under-17 and under-20.”
Former Matilda Moya Dodd, a FIFA executive committee member, AFC vice-president and FFA board member, said the senior national team would only be strengthened with strong development pathways.
“I think this program will give the women’s game a focus it has really never had before,” she said.
“I would love to see us win a World Cup but to ensure that performance at the elite level we have to get the pyramid right from the bottom up.
“When young girls who take up the sport now will be well coached and will have a clear ladder to climb then that payoff is immediate. It strengthens the game at every level.”