Women’s World Cup odyssey: seven people from two families head to 14 matches in three cities hoping to see Matildas glory

Rosie Sullivan was aged nine when she watched her first Matildas game in a half-empty stadium in Parramatta in 2013.

Striker Lisa De Vanna secured a nail-biting 2-1 victory against China, but the thrilling match failed to attract many headlines.

“When we were younger all the players were still working full-time jobs as well as playing for the Matildas,” Rosie, now 19, recalls.

“They’ve always been really good, but at that game there were only a few hundred people there.”

How times have changed. Tonight, Rosie and her close friends, sisters Lucy, 20, and Matilda, 15, will be among a crowd of more than 50,000 in Brisbane for Australia’s second Women’s World Cup pool match against Nigeria.

Related: Path to Women’s World Cup glory: breaking down the Matildas’ possible route to the final | Jo Khan

The trio say they have attended at least 20 Matildas matches in the past 10 years, including a group trip with both their families to the 2019 World Cup in France.

This year, the two families – which includes Rosie’s brother Jem, 17, and mum, Simone, and Lucy and Matilda’s parents, Sarah and Todd – have tickets to 14 World Cup matches.

They are travelling from their home in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, to all three east coast capitals for the pool matches, and are hoping to follow the Matildas’ progress through the knockout stages, depending on how results fall. Either way, they have tickets to the Sydney semi-final and the final in the hope that it may be Australia’s year.

“It’s so good for that [younger] generation because they can see that playing in the Matildas is a legitimate career now,” Rosie says.

“If there’s any World Cup to win, this would be the one.”

Brisbane is expected to host more than 40,000 interstate and international visitors during its month-long festival of football.

In South Bank, green and gold lights guide the way to the public viewing area where fans of varying nationalities have gathered to watch their teams play.

At half-time, tourists and locals kick balls around a makeshift field and challenge one other to foosball matches. On the viewing green, DJs entertain crowds waiting for games to resume while foreign correspondents search for fans to interview.

Players sign autographs for young fans from the Mt Gravatt Hawks Football Club during a Matildas open training session in Brisbane

‘Girls will see the Matildas play and think “hey, I can do this one day”’ … players meet young fans at a training session in Brisbane. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Women’s football in this country has seen nothing like it, with record attendance and the Matildas already selling more jerseys than the Socceroos did during the 2022 World Cup.

Chris Beerens and his four-year-old daughter, Olivia, travelled from Tasmania to enjoy the “once-in-a-lifetime” chance to watch the Matildas play in a home World Cup.

The pair will be fully kitted up in Matildas gear and face paint on their very first “daddy-daughter trip” in Brisbane.

“She’s super excited. We’re going to unlock some core memories this week,” Beerens told Guardian Australia.

With the game kicking off at 8pm, Olivia might struggle to keep her eyes open until the end of the match. But her dad wants her to be inspired by the world-class side.

“So many young girls will see the Matildas play and think ‘hey, I can do this one day’,” he says.

“Being a father to girls, all you want is for them to be able to see what they can achieve and [know] what they’re capable of.”

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