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‘It will be massive’: Kerr says hosting World Cup will change Australian football

“The reason we are nervous is because we want to so badly and we care so much,” Kerr said. “The benefits will be huge. You can’t begin to think what it would do for football, but just for young girls and boys in general it will be massive to see the best of women’s football coming to Australia and playing on our home soil.”

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The forecasted impacts include a surge in female participation in Australia that could lead to a 50/50 gender representation by 2027. That demand could unlock government funding for facilities, and generate widespread interest in the games that would help accelerate the growth of professionalism of elite players.

When Kerr made her debut for the Matildas in 2009, Australia’s best female players lived on the breadline. They subsidised meagre salaries with part-time jobs, juggled playing for two clubs in Australia and the US in a single year along with a congested international schedule and were offered little support.

Kerr’s situation today is different; a star of the game, a face of Nike, playing solely for Chelsea, earning full-time salaries in the UK and with the Matildas and she is far from alone.

Her Matildas strike partner Caitlin Foord is playing for Arsenal. Hayley Raso is at Everton, Emily Gielnik joined Bayern Munich while defender Ellie Carpenter signed for six-time European champions Olympique Lyon last week.

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It’s part of the improvement in facilities, conditioning, player welfare, coaching and technical standards in the women’s game and the bulk of those advances have come in the past three years. If Australia was to co-host a World Cup in 2023, Kerr believes the growth potential for the next three years will be limitless.

“I believe no one can imagine how big this will be. I have been in the Matildas now for 10 years and the growth I have seen in the first seven years doesn’t compare to the growth I have seen in the last two to three years.

“Add another three years on that, it will blow people away,” she said. “I think this will surprise a lot of people, including the non-football people.”

Those sentiments are shared by her Matildas teammates. The COVID-19-forced shutdowns of football competitions has been forgotten, with chatter centred solely around the 2023 Womens’ World Cup bid and what it would mean to the game.

“In the group chat it’s been talked about in the last week, very heavily,” Kerr said. “Everyone has been excited, we have been waiting for this moment for a couple of years now. It’s been building, building, building and there has been so much work put into it … This is what we are waiting for, everyone is pumped, everyone is nervous.”

If Friday’s vote goes as hoped, it could be a while yet before Kerr regains her composure.

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