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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 11 May 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 11 MAY 2019 25 SPORT Let’s hear it for the girls! Bergers women move into the limelight Heidelberg United FC NPL W team has emerged as a contender this season. PHOTO: SUPPLIED GEORGE STOGIANNOU Greek Australian coaching guru, James Galanis. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/ ©AVELLINO ball Victoria with the help of the Federal Government invested in the Emerging Matildas program, focused on developing female players aged 17 and above. "What that is going to do is close the gap of the 17 year olds that get displaced after they are finished with our Victorian National Training Centre Program when they are 16," she explained. "At the age of 17 they cannot participate with us anymore; the club environments don't always offer what they need in an elite perspective. So we created that program along with some other parents to support those girls. The second thing we are also doing is lobbying government to have the High Performance Matildas Facility built here in Victoria. That would house the Football Victoria Offices as well, where we can have events and accommodation for players and run international tournaments." THE GREEK AUSTRALIANS BEHIND THE RISE OF WOMEN'S FOOTBALL IN VICTORIA Some of the rising stars that have come out of the Victorian system include three Greek Australians - current Australian National Youth Team internationals Sofia Sakalis, Nia Stamatopoulos and Page Zois whose journey to the W-League featured on the ABC TV Show 'Kick'. Tyrikos believes that program is a big reason why the number of girls playing football in Victoria has increased, and praised the work of Greek Australian film maker Dean Georgiou for his part in the production. "The work that he had done over the past two years has been instrumental in getting the game going and increas- ing participation," she says. "The 'Kick' series lifted the profile of the girls. We use this term a lot. 'if you can't see it, then you can't be it'. If girls don't see the stories of these girls pursuing their dreams then the barriers stop them." They have since teamed up with Georgiou to create a video for Female Football Week. It features girls from different multicultural backgrounds saying, "I am a footballer", in a bid to show that no matter what shape, size or background one is, you can play football, explained Tyrikos. Georgiou revealed that the Neos Kosmos story that featured 'Kick' led to TV stations in Greece interviewing Sakalis and Stamatopoulos in a bid to inspire young girls to take up football. "Since that story, ERT and Star TV contacted us a couple of months ago and some ‘Kick’ creator Dean Georgiou on set. of the girls to do some interviews," he told Neos Kosmos. "Yes 'Kick' has become international, but I've also wanted to be known as a male who champions women's football. The 'I Play Football' commercial I did for FV (which has over 20,000 views) is evidence of all the years of hard work in promoting female footballers, which include three Greek Australian girls from the Clifton Hill football club. It's important that women's football grows and I think Australia has the capacity to produce the best female footballers in the world." As part of Football Victoria's Female Football Week you can apply to join free female only skills training courses and free female only level 4 referee courses. For more information and other events visit https:// www.footballvictoria.com. au/news/football-victoriasfemale-football-week The growth in interest and participation in women's football around the country is reflected in a number of metrics. The spike in popularity and profile of the Matildas as a national team is one such indicator. More recently, that team has come out of the shadows of the Socceroos, attracts a strong following in its own right. Closer to home at club level in Victoria, the Heidelberg United senior women's team drew an unprecedented 2,000 views during HUFC TV's live stream of the team's most recent NPL W matches against reigning champion, secondplaced Bulleen Lions. The Bergers' senior women's team is currently staking a serious claim for finals action at the end of the season, currently sitting in third spot on the ladder after a promising start to the new campaign. Coach Bill Mihaloudis, who returned to take up the role of senior women's coach at the end of last season after a two year absence from the Bergers, spoke to Neos Kosmos midweek during Football Victoria's Female Football Week. Responding to a question about the team's change of fortunes on the park this year, Mihaloudis said their climb up the ladder this season comes as little surprise. "We had to rebuild the team and one of the main objectives was to strengthen the spine as well as tighten up the defence and score goals. So it was a full revamp," he said. "To answer your question, no I'm not surprised at all. I knew that what we had put together would be very competitive and good enough to compete against the top league teams." By recruiting a couple of Budding Coaches at the Female Only C-Licence Course created by Helen Tyrikos. proven goalscorers in Melissa Garcia and Sidney Allen, alongside home grown talent such as Stephanie Galea, this season the team has a good balance of experience and youthful talent. "Women's football has grown significantly at the club this season compared to previ- ous seasons. We now have a huge following. I believe we hit 2,000 views from our games last weekend, which is a great achievement for women's football," Mihaloudis said. The coach attributes the growth in large part to the club valuing both its female and male players equally. "Equality. We are all one club. The people's club. So there's no difference between genders. I've seen this firsthand. It's an amazing club to be around and it's the people within the club that make it what it is," he said, and added that having a successful women's football program is very important for Heidelberg. "We are always looking to improve. Football changes rapidly and if you don't change accordingly, you fall behind very quickly. So it's imperative to keep bettering ourselves on and off the park. We have come a long way in a very short time and that is a credit to the Board for their faith and support in us. It clearly shows that if you get it right off the park, it will happen on the park and for the women's season to date it's falling into place nicely." But for Mihaloudis, a successful women's program isn't just about building and preparing successful teams on the park, but helping to prepare players to take the next step up, such as the WLeague. "Our job is to prepare players to the next level. Similarly as junior coaches prepare junior players for senior football. We need to strengthen the game and the only way this will happen is by preparing players and providing them with all the tools necessary to be successful," he said. One area of the game where it seems females have yet to make up ground, is as senior coaches. But he has hopes this will change. "It's important to have female senior coaches in the game. There are quite a few females I know that are experienced. I spoke about equality [and] this should be no different."
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