Matildas mania at Women's World Cup epitomised by beautiful school photo

Australia has fallen in love with the Matildas during their historic run to the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Sam Kerr in action for the Matildas.
The Matildas captivated Australia in their magical run to the World Cup semi-finals. Image: Getty/Darren Walton

The Matildas' magical run at the World Cup might be over (except for the third-place playoff), but the lasting impression they've left on the country is clear for all to see. Over 11 million people tuned in to watch the semi-final against England on Wednesday night, making it the most-watched event in Australia since TV ratings began.

Over 75,000 fans packed Stadium Australia to watch the game live, while tens of thousands more watched from live sites around the country. There are genuine concerns that the interest in the Matildas and women's sport in general will drop off a cliff after the World Cup, but there are signs that might not be the case.

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The number of children and young adults who have turned up to watch the Matildas in person paints a brilliant picture for the future. Schools and workplaces have also been buzzing with Matildas mania throughout the tournament, and why should it stop?

Matildas fans, pictured here during the World Cup semi-final against England.
Matildas fans look on during the World Cup semi-final against England. (Photo by Damian Briggs/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

AAP reporter Darren Walton epitomised the way the Matildas have captivated Australia's youth on Thursday afternoon. Walton posted a photo from his kids' school that showed how the children had written the names of all the Matildas players on the pavement in chalk.

The likes of Mary Fowler, Hayley Raso and Katrina Gorry would only have been known in the football community before the World Cup, but have virtually become household names. "Picked the kids up from school today and saw every player’s name chalked onto the bitumen," Walton tweeted alongside photos of 'Mary Fowler is awesome' and 'Katrina Gorry' written in chalk. "The Matildas have clearly made a lasting impression on Australian children."

Matildas players call for more funding after World Cup heroics

There are countless other examples floating around social media of how Matildas mania has taken over the country. Stories of people overhearing others talking about the Matildas at the pub, in restaurants and at petrol stations - just to name a few.

But the tricky task for government and sporting bodies is to keep the momentum rolling. A number of Matildas players called for more funding to be injected into women's football after their loss on Wednesday night.

"I can only speak for the Matildas. We need funding in our development. We need funding in our grassroots. We need funding. We need funding everywhere," captain Sam Kerr said.

"The comparison to other sports isn't really good enough. And hopefully this tournament changes that because that's the legacy you leave — not not what you do on the pitch. The legacy is what you do off the pitch. And hopefully, I mean, it's hard to talk about now, but hopefully that this is the start of something new."

Government responds to calls for more funding

Unfortunately it looks as though they might not get their wish, with deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles saying on Friday "a lot of money has been spent on women’s sport." He stated: “Firstly, we put $84 million into this World Cup, this Women’s World Cup, and $40 million of that was into grassroots sport for girls taking up football.

“I’m sure government will look at this to look at how we can use this to see more women playing sport. I just think it’s about greater equality for women and men both on the field and off the field. This is a huge moment for the country.”

A federal government spokesman said they will look at “more ways” to ensure funding was “fit for purpose”. A statement said: “We are determined to help girls inspired by the FIFA World Cup, Netball World Cup, women’s basketball and rugby world cups have safer facilities to enjoy sport for life."

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