Matildas fever runs hot on suburban sidelines
She’s burbling now, drunk on the excitement of a scoreless Under 12’s soccer match
Sunday: 6.45am The ratcheting plasticon-plastic grind begins with a whimper and escalates quickly to a shrieking din as the eager dawn patroller hoists the noisy bedroom roller blinds enthusiastically, hand over hand, as though they were the stiffly yielding mainsail on a large schooner.
The room rolls for a minute and we come 180 degrees about — the dark shadowy bedroom solitude subsiding sharply as daylight streams in.
6.46am My partner of 30 years retreats to subject the small person in the next room to a similar wellintentioned battery and I try not to mourn the loss of another weekend sleep-in.
For five precious minutes the shower offers a steamy place to hide until she arrives in her pink pyjamas and releases my jealously guarded steam stockpile into the cold morning outside with a sleepy push of the bathroom door.
“Mum, where is my (insert word) uniform/socks/shin pads/boots?” she asks, her voice croaky with sleep while rubbing what’s left of my cherished bathroom steam into tired eyes.
“Well, if you put your washing pile away last week, it should be in your bottom drawer …” I hear myself say, talking mum-speak.
7.05am Dressed, we start hunting for missing soccer boots. Caked in mud and covered in dry grass clippings, they are finally discovered discarded in the garage.
7.10am Slice of toast in hand, water bottle filled, we head out to the car that is now idling in the driveway. Dad, as always, is the first out the door for the short drive to a local soccer field, excited that finally we have a child who is keen about team sport.
7.15am “Is the Bluetooth on dad?” Miss 11 asks. “I need to put my pump-up music on …”
Soon Meghan Trainor’s I’m A Lady is blaring as we conduct a last
minute check of whatsapp to make triply sure we’re headed to the right field at the right time and haven’t missed a coaching video posted earlier that may have required our urgent attention.
7.55am My daughter’s Under 12 soccer team complete their warmup — well, the opposition does while our girls cuddle, attempt cartwheels, fix each other’s hair, sing and plan next week’s sleepovers.
8am The teenage referee’s whistle calls us to order and parents who have been complaining about the chilly conditions and the shock of 8am soccer games, or discussing the fruit roster, winter weekend escapes, preferred high schools, other parent’s hangovers — fall briefly silent.
It’s then that woman in the $15 Kmart wet weather boots, mum jeans, puffer vest and incongruous New York Yankees baseball cap — begins her uninvited Sunday morning commentary.
“Run like the wind Holly run,” she exclaims urgently.
“To the ball Molly,” she enthuses.
“Mark your players girls! MARK THEM!” she shouts, barely drawing breath, words and names tumbling out of her as she shouts encouragement to every player on our team, naming them all in a frenetic breathless blather.
For a moment she has cast herself as old-styled runner who must restate the coach’s instructions to the team.
“Ref, sub …” coach shouts — and when the teenage ref doesn’t hear him — the woman urgently reinforces his call: “REF! SUB!!” she shouts, echoing him, more loudly.
“Sabina! SABINA! YOU’RE OFF! SIENNA, YOU’RE ON! GO SIENNA GO!!!” she instructs, with a surprising air of authority.
The Matildas’ World Cup campaign, she confides to co-parents, has renewed her passion for a game she has come to late — just a few years ago. I silently will her to shut up NOW.
It’s in vain.
The team manager gives the woman a patient smile and points out the local regional soccer association is talking about holding another silent supporters day: “You may have to stay home that day …” she says with a wink.
The woman quietens, the feedback momentarily absorbed, as the whistle sounds and the team breaks for halftime oranges and parents gather to listen to the coach’s counsel.
It’s nil-all as the girls return to the field to a chorus of cheers and encouragement from spectators on both sides.
This mere whiff of encouragement is too much for the team’s No.1 card-carrying supporter — the ebullient woman who clearly sees herself as a future understudy to SBS’s Lucy Zelic.
She’s pacing the sideline anxiously when the team manager calls: “Please take a step back spectators. The lineman can’t see the line.”
She steps back as one of the tiniest members of the team takes a shot at goal: “Go Cath Go!!” she shouts. “You’re a champion Cath! A mighty champion! Bigger inside than out! LIKE THE TARDIS!!!” What on earth is she saying? She’s burbling now, drunk on the excitement of a scoreless Under 12s soccer match.
She is also almost senselessly shrill: “Kick it out Maddie, kick it out!”, “Tackle Av, tackle,” “To the ball Olivia, to the ball!”, “Hold the line mids!” “TAKE A SHOT BEC!!!!”...... “DANCE, DUCK AND DIVE GIRLS!!!!!”
For the next 25 minutes the woman shouts herself silly until, finally exhausted, she falls silent as the opposition scores a tie-breaking goal in the dying moments giving them the game, 1-0.
My daughter soon materialises at my side: “Gee Mum, you were quiet today … Do you feel all right?” she asks, crushing a stud into my $15 plastic boots as she reaches up to pull the Yankees cap from my head.
The Matildas celebrate a Sam Kerr goal at the World Cup — another step on a sporting quest that is inspiring young girls and their parents at suburban fields across Australia on Sunday mornings. Picture: Getty