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‘A relationship that grew over time’: soccer lovers and the Women’s World Cup

As players, spectators and fans arrive in Australia for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, we asked some of the panelists, and self-professed soccer fanatics, speaking at our upcoming Kicking Goals event about the beautiful game.

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Captain of Melbourne City FC A-League Women’s team Emma Checker, inaugural captain of the Matildas, Julie Dolan AM, and Football Australia Legacy ‘23 Ambassador Azmeena Hussain tell us about their sporting heroes and share some thoughts on how soccer became such a significant part of their lives.

Tell us about the female soccer player you most admire and why?

Emma Checker: Though she is retired, the female soccer player I have admired most over time is [American soccer player] Abby Wambach. I always loved her physical presence in games and the way she contributed as a leader. The way she embraced ‘leading from the bench’ in her final World Cup will be a powerful lesson I hold close to me forever. I admire her off field contribution to equality, inclusion and topics that matter most to her.

Azmeena Hussain: Don’t make me choose just one! As a collective, the Matildas are such a powerful squad who are redefining elite sport. Not just for women, but for all Australians. If I had to pick one player, I’d say Mary Fowler. Her powerful streak, determination and conviction is just palpable. At just 20 years of age, she has achieved so much and has such a bold career ahead, both on and off the pitch. Don’t take your eyes off her!

Julie Dolan: This is an interesting question, as when I was growing up and first getting started in football, there were only male football players on TV, and absolutely no females, so I always aspired to base my game around Glen Hoddle from Tottenham. I loved how he strategised and controlled the midfield.

Later on in my career, I had the pleasure of watching a young Julie Murray grow as a player and appear on Australian state and national teams. She is one of the female players that I most admire; highly skilled, a great leader, a thinker and strategist who played with tenacity. Another player of a similar ilk is Sally Shipard, possessing all the qualities mentioned above. Both women rate, in my opinion, with some of the best Australia has seen.

How did you fall in love with the game?

Emma Checker: My love for the game was a relationship that grew over time. I didn’t grow up in a soccer family, so it was not a hot topic in our household or the main sport on the TV as a kid. For me, the love started to come once I realised the magnitude of the world game and the potential opportunities I could have if I were to pursue playing.

It was my teammates, working towards a common goal surrounded by my friends, the feeling of winning and losing together, picking each other up when things are not going well and celebrating when they do, the highs and the lows and so much more. The more I invested myself into the game the more my love began to grow.

Julie Dolan: I have four brothers and a sister so, growing up, there was always a game of football on in the backyard. It was a game that, even though dominated by males, was accessible to females, as it relied on skill, finesse, speed and strategy more so than the strength that other male dominated sports required.

I played in some boys’ teams at high school, and training and playing with them was of great benefit and what I really enjoyed. It taught me to move the ball more quickly, to react and think more quickly and to be much more competitive if I wanted to survive. It was a great challenge and that’s one of the reasons I fell in love with the game.

Azmeena Hussain: Football is a global game and attracts such a diverse following from across the world. It promotes universal values that transcend language and culture and has a significant role to play in effecting social change.

I played at Glen Eira FC for a number of years and the sense of community was palpable. And besides, how can you not fall in love with the game just by following the Matildas! What a lineup of talent and elite athleticism.


Emma Checker, Julie Dolan AM and Azmeena Hussain will appear in conversation on Saturday 29 July at the Wheeler Centre. Tickets are available now.

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