BY ANISSA TANN DARBY Australia’s most capped female Socceroo with 74 appearances for Australia including 54 “A” internationals. She started her career in the 1988 Pilot Womens world Cup in China in Australia’s first ever victory over Brazil by any Australia Soccer team. In this article she outlines the structure of Australian female soccer and the many changes that have occurred in the last decade. Australia in 1997 defeated both Sweden and China and are now starting to emerge as a threat to the giants of Womens world soccer.
I am woman, see me score
A decade of international soccer seems to have flown by. On my first trip to play for Australia in China in the 1988 Pilot World Cup, not only was it a culture shock to play in china it was also a major shock to my wallet as up until 1995 a female had to pay to play for her country. In comparison on our recent seven nation tour of Europe we were actually paid to play as well as having our expenses paid. Occasionally I have to remind some of the younger players that it is a privilege and an honour to play for their country and probably as in all over the world the female pioneers of the game had to self fund their international careers. Players now being part funded will mean that they will stay in the game longer and be able to gain the much needed international experience to play at the highest level. It’s not until you play against Michelle Ackers a few times that you realise how important experience is.
The USA are still the yardstick of elite female soccer and the team that Australia must measure themselves against.. Despite our recent victories over Sweden and China it is not until we get a “result” against the USA that we can say that we are on the top level of female soccer. That is our aim to achieve the achieve the Olympic Gold in 2000 and a good performance in the 1999 World cup.
The game in Australia had made amazing progress in the last decade and this has been due to the massive injection of finance by the Australian Sports Commission which has ploughed AUD$900,000 per year into the game. Corporate sponsorship is hard to gain in Australia and only companies such as Ram balls and personal sponsors like Reebok have helped our players out. This injection of funding has allowed a strong management team of Executive director Warren Fisher, Elite Manger Alan Reis and Team manager Sarah Groube to be employed fulltime and for them under the guidance of President Dennis O’Brien to develop a national structure to ensure that we can maximise the female talent in the game. In its most simple terms its allowed our National coach Greg Brown (an ex Socceroo) to be able to work with a greater depth of talent.
Australian soccer is historically organised on a tri partite level of Club soccer played in the major cities feeding the elite players into the State teams such as NSW or Quensland. The state teams playing off in an annual championships from where the National coach had the unenviable task of attempting to pick a squad. The process was so ad hoc with players missing out through injury or even great players being unable to afford to travel to the week long championships.
As the game has evolved some of Australia’s big National Mens League teams such as my club Marconi have stared to treat female soccer with respect and greatly supported the growth of the game. Marconi have won the Australian Womens club championships the most times for a club. Though it has to be admitted that the influence of Katerina Morace had over the Directors of this Italian based club was a major support to the game.
The major change however in the game has been the increase in funding by the Australian Womens soccer association (AWSA) into the second level of the game, the State Teams. The AWSA now funds full time coaches at the State level who run quality coaching programs at this level through the winter and in the summer coach the State teams in a National Summer League (sponsored by Ansett airlines). This Intensive Training Program has meant that Greg Brown can lay down programs and fitness levels and they will be delivered by quality coaches many of whom have played professional male soccer. It also means that young players coming through are kept in the game and that his talent pool is larger and hence far more competitive.
The next and perhaps most important step in Greg Brown’s plan for gold is that he is inviting the top twenty players to move into a residential program at the Australian Institute of sport almost emulating the USA model. Being based in Canberra as a team will the players to eat under strict dietary programs, access quality weight training programs and most importantly play regular games against mens team to give us the speed and aggression needed to play at the highest level.
So in ten years I have seen the game come a long way from having to sell raffle tickets and stay in each others houses for accommodation to save money, through to playing in front of 60,000 people against Japan as part of a double header with the male Socceroos…and get paid for it!!!!
The goal is gold in 2000 and we hope to put on a display in the USA 99 World Cup that will make people realise that the Aussies are serious about the greatest game of all.
A International appearances as at November 23 1997 ANISSA TANN DARBY (54) (5) goals SONIA GEGENHUBER (48) (1) goals JULIE MURRAY (45) (8) goals SUNNI HUGHES (43) (20) goals SARAH COOPER (37) (2) goals ALISON FORMAN (34) (3) goals TRACEY WHEELER (32) (0) goals LISA CASAGRANDE (32) (12) goals CHERYL SALISBURY (31) (9) goals SUE MONTEATH (23) (4) goals Australian National record at A Internationals P W L D F A PTS ARGENTINA 1 1 0 0 7 0 3 BRAZIL 3 2 1 0 4 5 6 CANADA 5 3 1 1 8 5 10 CHINA 6 1 5 0 5 18 3 DENMARK 1 0 1 0 0 5 0 FIJI 1 1 0 0 13 0 3 HONG 1 1 0 0 6 0 3 ITALY 1 0 1 0 0 3 0 JAPAN 6 1 0 5 15 11 8 KOREA 2 1 1 0 2 2 3 NCAL 1 1 0 0 5 0 3 NORWA 4 1 3 0 2 12 3 NZ 25 11 9 5 31 25 38 PNG 5 5 0 0 37 0 15 RUSSIA 3 1 1 1 5 3 4 SCOTLAND 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 SWEDEN 2 1 1 0 1 5 3 TAIWAN 4 1 3 0 5 9 3 THAI 1 1 0 0 3 0 3 USA 10 0 10 0 8 40 0 WGER 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 HUNG 1 1 0 0 4 0 3 HOLLAN 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 BELGIUM 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 ESTONIA 1 1 0 0 5 1 3 FINLAND 1 0 1 0 0 2 0 AUSTRALIA 135 INTERNATIONALS (89 "A" INTERNATIONALS) P W L D F A ALL 135 61 45 29 251 181 A 89 35 39 15 167 148