- Australia star Steph Catley talks 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup
- “This will inspire a whole new and bigger generation of young girls to play”
- Arsenal-bound full-back has played last six seasons in NWSL
Australia’s vice-captain Steph Catley is set to play in her third FIFA Women’s World Cup™ on home soil after Australia and New Zealand were recently announced as co-hosts for the 2023 edition. Typically one of the first names on the Matildas’ teamsheet, the personable and articulate Catley has enjoyed additional spotlight of late as one of the faces of the bid.
Catley was then in the headlines again after being named as a new recruit for English high-flyers Arsenal, where she will link with a familiar coach in fellow Melburnian Joe Montemurro.
Already with a nearly a decade of international experience on her CV, the 26-year-old left-sided attack-minded full-back is set to be at the peak of her career when the world’s elite head Down Under in three years time.
Before her departure for North London FIFA.com spoke with Catley about her emotions when the 2023 hosting rights were announced, France 2019 experiences, expectations for a home World Cup and the newest chapter in her club career.
FIFA.com: What emotions did you experience when Australia and New Zealand were announced as 2023 hosts?
Steph Catley: It honestly surprised me the scale of the experience. Being there in the room with all the people that have worked so hard and put in time, passion and effort in, it was just such a special moment when we found out we had won the right to host the World Cup. As players, obviously to play in a home World Cup is so special and something you can only dream of as a player.
What are some of the positive spin-offs that hosting will bring?
There are so many different positives to this. Bringing the attention of the world upon Australia is something that will change the game here forever. Growing up I didn’t have access to female footballers, I couldn’t watch them on TV and they just weren’t out there in the public eye for young girls to watch and be inspired by. Having all the best players in the world here is going to inspire a whole new and bigger generation of young girls, and boys, to play.
You have always had a strong connection with the grassroots. What are some of the ways they will be boosted in Australia and New Zealand?
With all the added exposure so many young children will be inspired to play. Here in Australia football is competing with so many other sports, but this will create even more of a genuine pathway for girls who can watch the tournament first-hand and think ‘I want to be a footballer’.
What will the experience be like for the Matildas to have such a unique experience on home soil?
That is really goosebumps stuff. I have been to two World Cups now and most of my favourite football memories are lining up with my team and listening to the national anthem. To imagine that at home in front of a big home crowd, and in front of family and friends, honestly it is a dream come true. The team has played a lot of friendly internationals at home, and it is always so much easier at home when you have a crowd behind you and you know you have that support. It is a massive boost for us a team. We need to get everything right leading into the tournament and if so, I think it will be great for us.
Looking back to France 2019 when Australia was eliminated in the Round of 16, what do you think the team learnt from that experience?
I think we learnt a lot. It was a difficult tournament for us. We had a shake-up before the tournament with a coaching change and a few things like that. We were all disappointed with the result, but we went back and looked at some of the statistics and the way we played, and we were pretty proud of that kind of stuff. We were up there in terms of possession and some of the key statistics, up there alongside No1 and No2 in the world, so we recognised that we are definitely heading in the right direction. There are a couple of things that we need to tighten up and get better at, and you never know, the sky’s the limit.
On a personal level, you are changing direction with a move to Arsenal after spending your club career in USA and Australia?
I’m really excited for this. I have been in the US for the last six, seven years, so I’m really looking forward to a change of scenery and a new challenge. I’m itching to get back out there after not playing for so long due to coronavirus, especially at an amazing club like Arsenal, so it is very, very exciting.
How much of an influence was your connection with Arsenal coach Joe Montemurro who you know so well from previous seasons at Melbourne City?
I had already decided that this was the year that I would like to head to Europe and I looked at a few different options, but when it came down to making a decision that was definitely a factor. Mostly because I know how he likes to play, and I know the way I play fits in with that. It is a very enjoyable style, lots of possession, very attacking yet disciplined at the same time. There were a few factors that came into making my decision, but it is definitely nice to have a friendly Aussie face there.