As a player, Sarah Walsh was certainly part of a legacy.
Representing her country 70 times including at the 2006 Women’s Asian Cup and 2007 Women’s World Cup, the former Sydney FC attacker was a part of a successful generation of Matildas, headed by the likes of Lisa De Vanna, Kate Gill and Cheryl Sainsbury.
Now the Head of Women’s Football, Women’s World Cup Legacy and Inclusion at Football Australia, and instrumental in securing both the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the ICFPF Asia-Oceania Championships (Para Asian Cup) in November, Walsh is ensuring her mark on Australian football lasts long beyond the hanging up of her boots.
“I’m excited to be a part of the journey ahead, particularly leading up to November,” Walsh told Kick360.
“I hope it elevates our game amongst a really competitive market here in Australia, but also puts our players on the global stage.
“We’re about to put our football in Australia on the global stage through two major events, which I am super excited about.”
Speaking at the announcement of Football Australia sealing the hosting rights for the IFCPF Asia-Oceania Championships, Walsh is excited about the potential opportunities of having one tournament fall shortly before another.
The month-long Women’s World Cup will get underway on July 20 with the final on August 20, while the Para Asian Cup will commence on October 31 and conclude on November 12.
As the Women’s World Cup is less than 100 days away, it was revealed last week around 650,000 tickets have already been sold for the tournament.
With Australian eyes certain to be focused on the tournament, Walsh hopes some of those remain on the sport when the Pararoos and ParaMatildas do battle weeks later.
“The way that we look at the Para Asian Cup for men and women in November is the way that we view our content over our calendar year.
“We’ve got the Women’s World Cup, which is probably the biggest event we’re going to host for Australian sports since the Sydney Olympics.
“We’re so proud to be able to say it’s only a couple of months later you get to see the Para Asian Cup on home soil for both men and women.
“It is about us building our content out, but also you know providing that access for elite football and more match minutes for all of our footballers and that obviously extends to our CP players with the acquired brain injuries and symptoms of stroke as well.”
There was undoubted nationwide jubilation as the Socceroos qualified for the Round of 16 at a World Cup for the first time in 16 years, with scenes around the country going global.
Regardless of club allegiances, in Australia or abroad, fans were seen celebrating together as Graham Arnold’s charges made a historic run into the knockout stages in Qatar.
As one historic month in the men’s game is set to be followed by one in the women’s game and another in para football, Walsh can feel a palpable aura around the beautiful game Down Under.
“I pinch myself that I work in football, particularly this year.
“Having been a player for 20 years, I can honestly say I have never felt so much buzz around our sport.
“I am proud of what our sport has done this year.”
Image Credit: Hanna Lassen/Getty Images for FIFA