Football book review: ‘Dedicated Lives’

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Greg Downes uncovers the unheard history of women’s football in Australia by sharing in-depth, intimate stories from some of the game’s pioneers.

From the creation of the women’s competition, its development, and to accolades for half a lifetime of commitment, women’s football in Australia would not be what it is today without the contribution of these impressive women and men.

Dedicated Lives includes tell-all stories about the harsh realities faced by women in football before the progression of the local game, A-League Women and the Matildas as we know today.

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The story features insights to the lives of 18 pioneers of women’s football in Australia, some well-known, while others finally have their name in the face of recognition.

The interviews uncover what it was like for Australian women in football from the perspective of players, coaches and management.

The reader will be set back to the 1960s – a time when women’s football was not allowed nor was it an acceptable women’s sport.

Some common themes include inequity, sexism, lack of respect and an impossible full-time balance of football, education, career, family and relationships.

Dedicated Lives recognises these pioneers for not only their talents, but their contribution to the women’s game and all the hardships and success along the way.

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Downes’ use of direct interview dialogue transports the reader to a time before our own, uncovering the uniqueness of each interview proving that no two players have the same story.

This book is a haunting reminder of how far the women’s game has come and that over time, one person can make a real difference.

The author includes well-researched information, some of which was conducted as a part of Downes’ PhD dissertation.

The reader will be taken exclusively into the highs and lows of these people’s careers and lives, allowing the reader to feel everything they did. There are essentially 18 ‘characters’ but the chapters are not long so the average reader should not have much difficulty in keeping up.

Throughout the text I found myself shaking my head in dismay to the issues around the women’s game in its time and in awe of what I had just read.

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Recommendation: This book would be a great read for anyone who enjoys the women’s game, the history of football and its development. This book will resonate with female footballers as some of these issues still persist to date.

It is also an incredible insight for those who want to understand why we hold women’s football in Australia to high regard and why we rightly continue to rally for them.

My Rating: 4/5

A total of 17 out of the 18 subjects who were interviewed were female, while the inclusion of one male added another perspective to the roadblocks women faced.

It was a pleasant surprise to see the inclusion of migrants, who shared their experiences of women’s football in Australia, and its emphasis of what football is really about and what it can do for someone when given the opportunity.

Feature Image credit: Fair Play Publishing Australia 

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Ash Ramos
Journalism student at Curtin University covering Perth Glory for the 2021/22 A-leagues season. Siuuu

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