WHILE Sydney dropped the not-so-shocking bombshell that the club and Kosmina were parting ways on Saturday, much more important and momentous occasions took place up the road at Parramatta: the 14th-ranked Matildas took on the 12th-ranked Italians in the first of a two-match friendly series and Matildas captain Cheryl Salisbury played her 151st and final Matildas match.
Equally important was that the 2-2 match was played out in front of approximately 4500 spectators over a full 90 minutes in 35-degree heat-a testament to the women's mettle and to fans' interest in the game.
Which brings me to the retiring Salisbury's February FourFourTwo postulation that perhaps the women's matches should be reduced in time as they lack the intensity of the men's games.
Her suggestion might - understandably - be a reflection of her own injury-ravaged body's weariness and her subsequent lack of match fitness or simply a deadline-induced article that she trotted off without giving it serious thought, but I think she's missed the mark.
I'm a huge Salisbury fan, so please don't mistake this blog for hating on a legend. But I can't ignore the fact that the shortening suggestion is unfeasible and that it undermines women's football in general.
There are a few things we need to note:
- There's no such thing as too much football. I repeat, there's no such thing as too much football.
- Women's football is not the poor cousin to men's football. The W-League has established that women's football is different and exciting in its own right. If we want to see the men play, we'll watch the men's matches.
- The men flag too. Anyone who can maintain an inordinately high level of intensity for 90 minutes isn't, well, human. Innumerable late-in-the-match goals have been conceded in the A-League because the men are tired and/or struggle to concentrate for the 90-plus minutes. Sad but true, we literally take bets for which 80- or 90-somethingth minute Roar will concede a soft goal in. If the women's games need to be shortened, so do the men's (or maybe just the Roar men's).
- If women's football in Australia went truly professional and players were able to focus on training instead of juggling part-time jobs, the games would lift in intensity. Surely we'd be better off concentrating on gaining sponsorship and salary cap-stretching deals for the players?
- The international standard for football is 90 minutes and if we want to compete on the world stage, we need to play for the full 90. I can't imagine how poorly the Matildas would fair if they lacked the legs to carry them through injury and extra time and penalty shootouts, which are, incidentally, exciting aspects that occur late in the game and which we saw in our very own Roar Women v Sydney FC Women sudden-death semi final.
- Women play well. People are regularly surprised by the standard of play and physicality of the women's games. They enjoy the good passing and build up play that the women have, perhaps as a result of not having the same pace or strength to go it alone or boot the long, speculative, and often-intercepted ball forward.
- We want our money's worth-even if it is a tight ass $5. The fact that approximately the same number of people attended the W-League grand final as attended the Matildas match - one which is technically a friendly and the outcome of which wouldn't alter their international ranking - is a sign that they find the 90 minutes of play anything but tedious.
- In an increasingly inactive, overweight, and self esteem-depleted society, we need to encourage women (and men) to exercise more, not less.
- And finally, we need to give the streakers time to get sufficiently sauced and bolshy enough to get their kit off and lob themselves over the fence. And, as my mate Bob noted, to get their signs the right way up.
Fiona Crawford would like to make it clear that she has enormous respect for ‘Shezza'.