‘Nice for a pre-season tour’: The switch needed for our football tours

A-League All Stars Women v Arsenal Women FC

Matildas and Arsenal women stars Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley believe international pre-season tours for big European clubs would make more sense than having them take place immediately after their domestic season ends.

The Gunners were in Melbourne this week ahead of their exhibition match against the A-League Women All-Stars at Marvel Stadium on Friday night, which they won 1-0.

The match took place just five days after Arsenal’s final Women’s Super League clash in England.

“It was tough obviously to come off the plane and play,” Foord said.

“It would be nice for a pre-season tour, I would say.

“For us it would probably be a lot nicer and a bit more time. I think the girls really enjoyed coming out here, it’s just really short. We would’ve liked a lot more time out here.”

Catley concurred with Foord’s idea.

“That’s a good shout,” she said.

“The quick turnaround is obviously really hard for teams coming from as far as we do and at the end of the season there’s obviously tired bodies, but I know with the schedules, it’s really difficult to put these things on.”

Arsenal coach Jonas Eidevall developed a new-found appreciation for what his Australian players go through when they regularly zigzag the planet and play for club and country off very short turnarounds.

“You think you know jet lag just because maybe you’ve travelled to USA a couple of times,” he said.

“But it’s a total different ball game going to Australia.”

While Catley thought taking the A-League Women All-Stars overseas would be a good idea in the future, veteran Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams hoped matches they’re involved in would stay in Australia for the foreseeable future.

“That’s where we want it to be. We want to keep growing football in this country,” she said.

“We’re still a little bit off in terms of what Europe has and the global powerhouse that they are.

“We want people to come to Australia and showcase what football is here.”

A-League All Stars Women v Arsenal Women FC
Katie McCabe of Arsenal thanks fans after the exhibition match against the A-League All Stars Women. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Catley had a ball playing against the All-Stars in front of over 42,000 fans.

“I thought it was great. I think the atmosphere was amazing, the crowd was amazing, coming back to Australia these days is just so much fun with the way that the fans engage with everything,” she said.

Foord was taken aback by hearing numerous Arsenal chants coming from the stands.

“It’s nice to see that obviously they’ve been following the season,” she said.

“They know all the chants … and I think that shows how big the following is for Arsenal and how big the club is.

“It felt like a home game for us.”

Eidevall echoed Foord’s sentiments.

“The support on this tour here has been phenomenal,” he said.

“Melbourne as a host city has been phenomenal.

“It’s great for us to see how much this team means to a lot of people that are not based in London and giving the opportunity to come out and letting them meet their idols.”

All-Stars coach Joe Montemurro, who used to be in charge of Arsenal, described the experience as “great fun”.

“It’s always beautiful to come back,” the Melbourne native said.

“I love this place and tonight was just an amazing spectacle and everyone should be proud on how the game’s developed.

“It’s an opportunity for all of them (All-Stars players). Some of them have just been playing in the NPL eight months ago and are playing in front of 40,000 people. Wow. We need more of this to develop the game.”

Montemurro said he was already receiving messages after the game about All-Stars players from his contacts at big European clubs.

“A lot of people are looking at the league (A-League Women’s). The league has to be in one of the top 10 leagues in the world,” he said.

Williams added: “It should hold a lot of people in confidence that we can go and play in these big leagues. It’s not such a far off jump to go there.”