Matildas win in wake of concerning abuse allegations

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The Matildas achieved victory against Brazil in their first game back amidst explosive allegations of abuse and sexual harassment.

Matildas legend Lisa De Vanna has recently spoken out on her alleged experiences of sexual harassment, indecent assault, grooming, and bullying at the hands of other players during her career.

Former W-League player Rhali Dobson also made allegations on the toxic cultural problems that exist across the top level of women’s football in Australia and said there needs to be consequences in place for this type of behaviour.

During the post-game press conference, Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson stated his players remain unaffected by the ongoing situation, as they backed him up with a strong showing against Brazil.

“Teams that want to be at the highest level and compete to win tournaments need to get used to that interest and pressure from the outside no matter what it is,” he said.

“This time it was this thing, another time it could be another thing and thriving under it and looking at pressure is a privilege [and] is an important thing.”

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Football Australia responded to the allegations with a statement on their “zero tolerance approach to any conduct which breaches the standards and values expected of people involved with the game”.

They had a formal meeting with De Vanna in the following days and were made aware of her initial concerns but didn’t discuss the specific abuse allegations.

The sporting organisation has also created a joint initiative with the independent institution Sports Integrity Australia, which will investigate historical abuse allegations and the structural barriers that have prohibited players from filing a formal report.

Caitlin Foord, Matildas’ superstar forward, said the current saga with De Vanna was not the main focus as they played at home again.

“I don’t even think there was pressure. We just wanted to enjoy it,” she said. “Being on home soil again in front of home fans, that’s been well overdue and that’s what got us through tonight.

“We just wanted to come here and put on a great show and block out the outside noise because we’re here for the team and that’s what we’re here to do.”

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The Matildas broke their silence with a collective statement shared on social media, which acknowledged the seriousness of De Vanna’s allegations and showed their willingness to work with Football Australia and Sport Integrity Australia to create a safe environment that encouraged players to report on inappropriate situations.

However, hardcore supporters have critiqued the Matildas response, as their heavy emphasis on a positive workplace culture can be viewed as a contradiction to their support for De Vanna’s alleged experiences.

Although Football Australia is starting to take a closer look into the problematic structures preventing players reporting on harassment and abuse, it is important to support the victims and continue to improve the ecosystem of women sporting environments to protect future generations from potential abuse.

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Olivia Nunes-Malek
Covering Sydney FC for the 2021/2022 season. Currently studying a Bachelor of Communication (Journalism and Digital and Social Media) at the University of Technology Sydney.

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