It’s a massive year for women’s soccer, with the World Cup in June giving the Australian Matildas a strong opportunity to prove themselves as the planet’s best.
If that was not a big enough deal, Electronic Arts has just revealed that - for the first time - 12 national female football teams from around the world will be playable in its upcoming FIFA 16 video game. finder.com.au caught up with three of Australia’s female stars - Kyah Simon, Steph Catley and Katrina Gorry - to talk about both the World Cup and their appearance in the game.
It’s a huge year for the Matildas; for the team to consider the World Cup a success, what do you need to achieve?
Kyah Simon: Obviously the number one goal is to win the World Cup, but we also want to see just how far this team has progressed and what it has become. I truly do believe we can win it, but we do have to take each game as it comes and it all starts with the USA. We’re definitely heading in the right direction with the way we are playing, and we’re also mixing well off the field and have a great team culture. Our unity as a team off the field is really reflecting in how we’re playing on the field. It really excites me to see the direction this team is heading.
The male game has come on in leaps and bounds in this country over recent times; has the female game been able to ride that wave of increased interest as well?
Steph Catley: Yeah I definitely think that Australia in general is starting to pay a bit more attention to the female game, but I do think there is still a way to go. I’m from Melbourne and football definitely has struggled there because AFL is so popular. But now the male game is growing, I feel the female game is following suit. Melbourne City has just come into the W-League, for example, which is a huge thing for women’s football as we now have two teams in Melbourne - it’s definitely another good step in the right direction. It didn’t hurt for the sport’s profile in Melbourne that the Victory won the A-League as well.
So the sport is growing rapidly and if we do well at the World Cup it will definitely gain some attention for the women’s game, which would be massive for us.
What inspired you to become a professional football player and did you always feel like there was a career available in the women’s game?
Katrina Gorry: I started playing because my older brothers were playing and I loved watching them on the field so much I decided to give it a go. I soon fell in love with the game. Starting with the state teams and playing with some of the best players in Australia, and then going into the academy teams from there, it really makes you set your goals high and want to go to a World Cup. That’s what has driven me, especially watching the girls in the 2011 World Cup get all the way to quarter finals. It just gave me goosebumps and I really wanted to be a part of that team. It’s really exciting that I now get to experience it.
Kyah Simon: Growing up in such a sporty family, I always wanted to be a professional athlete. I didn’t actually know what sport it was going to be until my nextdoor neighbour invited me down to the local club and then - literally within two sessions - I went home to my mum and told her I was going to play for Australia one day... and Manchester United. I haven’t quite done the latter yet, but when I set that goal as an eight-year-old girl; well I think my mum thought I was dreaming. I think, at that point in time, setting those goals really cemented in my mind the direction I was going to go in and I wasn’t going to stop until I achieved it.
Fast forwarding, I finally got that moment at 16 to represent my country at the senior level, and it remains the highlight of my career. Thinking about it really does make me look back at the eight-year-old girl who said that and makes me really proud of my family, because no matter how big I set my goals, they always supported me. It goes without saying how many sacrifices my siblings and parents made to help me follow my dream.
Steph Catley: I played from when i was about five or six in a boys team, so I was pretty closed off to what was possible in the female game. Even that you could actually make an Australian women’s team. I remember the coach of that boys team, when I got to around nine-years-old, said there were State programs I could go to with other girls. When he said he put my name down to go and trial I remember going to my dad and crying because I didn’t want to leave the boy’s team. But looking back at that and considering that, after doing the trials, I made the team and that’s where my career started, it’s funny to think I didn’t want to leave the boy’s team originally. As soon as I was in that State team I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do. Soon after I found out about the Matildas and playing for them has become the goal ever since.
You mention playing with the boys; there’s so much talent in the Matildas, would you take up an offer to play for an A-League club if it was offered?
Kyah Simon: A lot of the Matildas grew up playing with the boys and that is where they got a lot of their skill level and physicality from, but as we got older the bigger gap between men and women’s physical attributes became more obvious. So in no way would it be fair for a woman to go up against a fully-grown male as they would just out-muscle them. But while I don’t think there is a level field in terms of physical attributes, in terms of skill there is no reason why the girls cannot match the boys. It’s only the physical attributes that are the difference between men and women games.
In saying that, I’m so proud we have our female league in Australia that is continuously growing, but is also dramatically gaining greater awareness globally. We now have international players who want to come over and play in our league and it’s only going to get bigger. We’re in our eighth season now and it feels like it only started last year, so the time’s flying as the interest goes through the roof.
The news dropped today that 12 female national teams will appear in the next iteration of the legendary EA video game FIFA. It has been a hard 12-months for women who work in the games industry compliments of the gamergate scandal - do you have any thoughts on how including women in a game as high profile as FIFA will not only build respect for women as playable characters in games, but also for those who work in the industry?
Kyah Simon: I think it is huge in terms of the recognition of females in sport and I believe that will stem down through to the employees of game companies. Even for the girls who play, they will no longer have to control a boy in FIFA, they can represent as their favourite female player and I think that is huge for women all over the world. It’s great that such a huge company like EA Sports is including females, and I think it will now spread through other sport games, too. It will be huge across the board, from players to employees to gamers, and it can only really grown in a positive way from there.
Do you think having women playable in FIFA will encourage girls to get into video gaming as a hobby?
Kyah Simon: I think so. The next generation of Australians always have an iPhone in their hand, or a game controller of some sort with them. For me, my younger brother is 15 and my older brother is 30, and when they’re not together they are speaking online while playing a game and that’s how they stay in contact. So I think this can also help encourage girls to start playing games as they can be part of that modern experience. Plus, whenever they come home from playing soccer on the weekend they can turn on FIFA and play as their favourite team. There are girls out there who are really passionate and aspire to play for the Matildas one day, so I think FIFA 16 will spark a big interest for these girls in video gaming.
Finish this question; you won’t be satisfied playing FIFA 15 until you get the Matildas to beat...
Kyah Simon: The USA
Katrina Gorry: England, because we lost to them in the last cup and we’re still a bit dirty about it.
Steph Catley: Whoever is number one in the world at the time: it’s Germany at the moment.
FIFA 16 will launch on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and PC on September 24 in Australia. This is the first time in the series history women players have been included, and the likenesses and movements of the players have been fully captured. The 12 teams playable will be Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Sweden and the USA, and you can play them in Kick Off, Offline Tournament and Online Friendly game modes.