Former Fern Kirsty Yallop: ‘Generational change has happened in New Zealand

Retired Football Fern Kirsty Yallop has a unique perspective on the FIFA Women’s World Cup with a strong connection to both host nations.

Having played in two FIFA Women’s World Cups for Aotearoa New Zealand, Yallop married Matildas midfielder Tameka Butt (now Yallop) in 2019 — meaning she had a foot firmly in both camps when it came to the 2023 edition.

“It was definitely not normal to go from that Kiwi v Aussie rivalry to being on the Matildas bandwagon, but it’s great,” said Yallop.

“I love supporting Tameka and supporting the Matildas. I’m such a fan of them as a team and they have done a lot on and off the pitch for women’s football so I’m really proud to be a part of that.

“I’m also a proud Kiwi, I’ve loved seeing the Ferns and watching them achieve history throughout this tournament with their first ever win and four-point finish.”

While Yallop’s allegiances may have been unusual, it gave her the perfect opportunity to view the impact of the tournament on both sides of the Tasman Sea.

Yallop is a member of the FIFA Technical Study Group for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The Matildas’ emergence as the Australian public’s most popular sports team — male or female — has been well-documented over the past month but the rise of the Football Ferns and women’s football in Aotearoa New Zealand has also been notable.

Kick-started by the host nation’s opening match victory over 1995 world champions, Norway, the tournament caught the imagination of the Aotearoa New Zealand public.

This momentum saw the record attendance for a football match — male or female — in Aotearoa New Zealand broken multiple times, starting with a crowd of 42,317 at the tournament opener against Norway, and culminating in three separate crowds of 43,217 in matches that didn’t even involve the host nation.

Main photo: Young Ferns supporters at Auckland’s Eden Park. Photo credit: Fiona Goodall – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images.

It’s these moments in her home country that has Yallop so excited for the legacy that will be left for football and women’s sport in the years ahead.

“The most important thing is this tournament inspiring the younger generation of both girls and boys. All those girls and boys will grow up knowing that women’s sport is just as big as men’s sport and that there is no difference between the two,” said Yallop.

“It’s about equality: they’re growing up in a world where it’s normal that 40,000 fans in New Zealand show-up to women’s football. They are going to grow up expecting crowds like that, and they’re going to grow up supportive of whichever team or whichever gender is playing. That’s the new normal for them.

“In twenty years, these girls and boys will be the leaders and decision-makers of our nation, and when they’re the ones in charge having grown up knowing that everything should be equal across all areas, then anything can happen.”

Acknowledgement: This story has been provided by FIFA.

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