The Matildas' culture-shifting World Cup run is over after losing in the semi-finals
JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
Australians have been cheering so hard for their women's soccer team, the Matildas - or the Tillies, as their nickname - that there is even a name for going hoarse during the Women's World Cup. It's called Tillie voice. The rise of the Matildas' popularity has been called a feminist cultural reckoning in Australia, where women's sports had long been sidelined in broadcast media. NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from the West Australian port city of Fremantle.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Chanting) Aussie, Aussie, Aussie...
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #1: (Chanting) Oy, oy, oy.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yeah.
DIAA HADID, BYLINE: At the neighborhood pub called The Local, men and women get into the mood. Many are decked in Australia's sporting colors - green and gold. It's on beanies, scarves, T-shirts. A table of women count down for the semi-finals to begin...
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #2: Three, two, one...
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Let's go.
HADID: ...Australia's Matildas versus England's Lionesses.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Whoo (ph).
HADID: The crowd goes wild as Australia's top scorer, Sam Kerr, charges, striking the ball into the goal.
HADID: The crowd's affection is sincere. It's also new. The Matildas have only been a household name since the World Cup began nearly four weeks ago as they churned through all opponents. Australians packed pubs, stadiums, viewing venues. They broke television records.
HADID: But in the semifinals, the English were ahead. The crowd tried to flag sinking spirits with a rendition of "Waltzing Matilda," the unofficial anthem and the team's namesake.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #3: (Singing) Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda, you'll come a...
HADID: No use. The English team, the Lionesses, won the game.
HADID: Regardless, many were just pleased so many came to cheer on women playing soccer like Cassie Gunthorpe. She's 29.
CASSIE GUNTHORPE: To come on down and see, like, the women just do so well and see a pub absolutely packed - it's just amazing. It's lovely to watch so many people turn out for a women's football match.
HADID: That could be the Matildas' lasting impact - people turning up. Megan Maurice is a sports journalist. She says media executives long neglected women's sports because they didn't think people would watch it.
MEGAN MAURICE: This tournaments just come along and blown a lot of those old assumptions out of the water and shown just how much people do want to watch women's sport when it's visible, when they know about it.
HADID: Back in the pub, one young man shakes his head as reality sinks in. The Matildas are out. The grand final will be England versus Spain on Sunday. The young man turns to his friend and says, fine, I'm cheering on Spain, then - as if it was the most normal thing in the world and not a cultural shift that began only four weeks ago.
Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Fremantle.
(SOUNDBITE OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST SONG, "CAN I KICK IT?") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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