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‘It’s bull****’: Matildas alumni criticise Football Australia’s recognition of 1975 team

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More than 50 former Matildas are expected to sign a letter to Football Australia criticising the recent decision to formally recognise a team from 1975 as the “first Matildas,” saying the governing body has devalued the meaning of their caps and damaged their trust in the organisation.

Following the announcement on Monday, several alumni have spoken to ABC Sport to express their disappointment and anger with FA over the decision, as well as the process that led to it, which they say disrespects the more than 200 women players who were formally selected to represent Australia since 1978.

“The cap means nothing if they’re going to go down this path,” Jae Pettitt, cap number 14, said.

“Every man and his dog can come and claim one now if they’ve been part of something that had to do with an Australian representative team. There’s many; I’m part of one, as well, and I know so many people in that category who were never capped.

A black and white photo of a women's soccer team wearing an Australian uniform

This team represented Australia in women’s soccer in 1975, but they haven’t been formally capped as Matildas. Until now.(Getty Images)

“They’ve wiped us off the face of the earth, basically. For many of us, football has been our whole life, our whole identity, for 50 odd years. I’m 61 now, and it’s made me the person I am. Without it, I probably wouldn’t still be alive … I feel like my identity has been stolen, to be honest.

“We went through so much as players to be part of these teams. Growing up, you never used to talk about being in the Matildas because you’d be mocked or bullied or harassed or abused. But knowing I was part of the football family, knowing I was a Matilda, was something really special because all that suffering was recognised and was worth it.

“But now? What does any of this mean now?”

The crux of the issue is the way in which the team who competed in the 1975 Women’s Asian Cup in Hong Kong was chosen, and whether that process made them a genuine national team according to the protocols of the day.

More specifically, all but two of the players from the 1975 team were sourced from the same club side, St George Budapest in Sydney, whose captain, Pat O’Connor, was also the secretary of the Australian Women’s Soccer Association (AWSA) at the time.

The AWSA was established during the first National Championships in August of 1974 in order to run women’s football across the country, while the men’s game was run by a separate governing body, Australian Soccer Federation (ASF).




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