It runs in my blood. That’s the common catchcry from fans all around Australia, who reflect on what it means to them to see their country perform at a FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.
Chicken, beer, and South Korean football
A roar emerges from inside a replica of a traditional Korean hanok, or house.
Employees from the Korean Cultural Centre in Sydney give a taste of the noise they’ll be generating during the Women’s World Cup as they support their country.
Jenny Chung was born in South Korea, but grew up in Australia, and looks after events and concerts at the centre.
“Even though I’ve lived in Australia for most of my life, I would call Korea my home,” she says.
“I think a lot of people feel the same way that have been living in Australia for a long time. They feel like Korea is closer to them.
“So every time we have a match like this, we go to a pub and we have chicken and beer, and we watch the tournaments together.”
Joanne Tae is the Korean language program manager.
“Hopefully they’ll get to the finals and win the Women’s World Cup,” she says.
“But even if they don’t, we’ll be definitely proud of our players.”
J-League star gets behind Japan’s women
As a former J-League star, Kentaroh Ohi knows how much football means to the Japanese public.
A junior national representative, Ohi went on to make 483 appearances with three different clubs between 2003-2022, before crossing to Australia in 2023 to represent the Eastern Lions in Victoria.
During a World Cup, Ohi says, it is common for families to “wake up at all hours”, glued to the TV as they cheer on the Japanese national team.
“It’s an amazing atmosphere,” he says.
“Everyone’s up and about.”
After the Japanese women’s team won the World Cup as underdogs in 2011, the country “went crazy”, he says.
“As soon as they won, the popularity [of women’s football] just skyrocketed in Japan,” Ohi says.
Some of those players also went on to become television celebrities.
Watching women’s sport grow in Aotearoa New Zealand
Kiana Takairangi and Harata Butler play in the NRLW for the Cronulla Sharks, but when it comes to the World Cup, they’re ditching the code wars, to support their fellow female athletes.
“I’m a big fan of it myself, the more exposure, the more recognition that we get as female athletes, it’s really great for women’s sport in general,” Takairangi says.
“I feel like I’m in a privileged position to witness women’s sports, women athletes being recognised on an international stage,” Butler adds.
“Being hosted in our little part of the world for our girls to see women striving and achieving and reaching the goals and their dreams to be an athlete. It’s really massive.”
Takairangi was born in Australia, and has Cook Islands and Māori heritage, while Butler is from the North Island in Aotearoa.
“To me, being Māori is my identity,” Butler says.
“It runs in my blood, it holds me grounded, wherever I go in the world, whether that is at home, on home soil, or afar, like here in Australia, it keeps me in tact with my spirituality, my beliefs and my cultural practices.”
Small, but loud and rowdy Panamanians
There are only 300 people born in Panama who live in Australia, including the Altamiranda family.
Andrewfer Altamiranda is the youngest of three boys — the only one of his siblings born in Australia — but his love for Panama, and especially football, runs deep.
“[My family has] been embedding the culture and the customs of the country in me since birth,” he says.
“And that’s how I’m close to Panama, and I’m passionate about my country’s heritage.
“[Panamanians are] very loud and rowdy. We’re very passionate about the culture, the music, the food.
“And once we find someone from Panama as well it’s an instant connection, like a brotherhood or sisterhood.”
Andrewfer’s mother, Sofia, her husband and two oldest children came to Australia to escape the dictatorship of Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno.
“We came to this wonderful and beautiful country to make them happy, better life for all of us,” she says.
“We still have [Panama] in our blood. The first time Panama [plays] in this event, it’s wonderful for us to give a lot of support to them.”
Andrewfer’s wife, Dayal Ortiz, has only been living in Australia for a few years, and seeing Panama’s women here means a lot.
“We’re going to support [them] because they have done a magnificent job.
“They need to have fun, enjoy. I hope after this they receive all the support for the government that they need to.”
Jamaica punches above its weight
Ranked 43rd in the world, Jamaica punches well above the weight of its just 2.8 million population, qualifying for the two most recent tournaments.
Roderick Grant, a former professional player who now runs a Jamaican food truck business, moved to Australia when he was 15.
He sees the tournament as a new opportunity to inspire young girls to take up the sport.
“It’s going to be excellent because Jamaica is so isolated as a small island,” he says.
“It’ll be a great motivator for the young girls to focus in on something and show that it can be achieved. It’s just hard work and dedication.”
Roderick knows first-hand how ingrained football is in Jamaican life, having gone on to represent his family worldwide.
“Football, man, it’s one of those things growing up in Jamaica, you finish school, go home and get changed, straight to the football field in the evening,” he says.
“It’s not even to play as a club, it’s just to play with your friends, your mates, and everyone just pulls teams together. It’s a big part of what we do in Jamaica.”
Football part of Norwegian identity
At a celebration for Norway’s ‘Constitution Day’, Norwegian ex-pats get together to celebrate.
“It was the day that the constitution was signed back in 1814, and it’s also known as the Children’s Day,” says one of the attendees, Bente Ryan.
“So in Norway people will gather in towns and have parades, national costumes, flags, brass bands, lots of ice cream, lots of hotdogs. And it’s a whole lot of fun.”
Amongst the group is Håvard T. Osland, the Norwegian Chaplain to Australia and New Zealand, mainly working as a university chaplain for Norwegian international students.
“It’s always exciting when your national team is doing really well, and football definitely is a big sport in Scandinavia,” he says.
“So it really is one of the things that connects us, and is part of our DNA and our identity.”
Generations of Italians share joy together
For generations, family has meant everything to Carmela Rispoli, who moved to Australia in the 1960s and raised four children.
As Italian-Australians, her daughter Philomena Pafralis and granddaughter Natalie Pafralis know when they come together and watch or play, it’s always special.
“It’s just beautiful to get together with the family,” Philomena says.
She was born in Italy and moved to Australia at just one year of age.
As for Natalie, there was really no other option, being born into an Italian family and raised in Australia.
“If I didn’t want to do it I didn’t have a choice. I was playing all my life, all my childhood,” she says.
And after all – “Italy has to win because they’re the best in the world,” Carmela cries in Italian.
Portuguese community linked by football
As soon as you walk into the grounds of Fraser Park FC in Sydney’s inner-west, the melodic sounds of an accordion ring throughout the area.
Members of Sydney’s Portugal Community Club are enjoying a meal and listening to the traditional music, while on the football field next door, the senior men’s team is preparing to play.
Football and community are inseparable here.
Andrew Alves was born in Australia, after his parents migrated from Portugal. He used to play for Fraser Park, but now supports the team from the sidelines.
“It’s always been a massive part, the Portuguese community here, and has been for many years,” he says.
His niece, 13-year-old Annabella Vasconcelos, plays football, and is amongst the generation of players watching the tournament and being inspired.
“[I’m] more excited than to have the men’s World Cup here,” she says.
The glue that binds Argentines in Australia
“The women’s World Cup means a lot to Argentinians,” says Alfredo Couceiro of Melbourne City Football Club, based in South Kingsville, Victoria.
This is especially the case, he adds, for those like him who have relocated to Australia.
“Even if you migrate to another country, your heart is beating for Argentina,” adds fellow Argentinian Melissa Gugliara.
“Football is born into you [as an Argentinian].
“It’s in your veins, it’s in your blood.
“You love it, you become passionate.”
Cristian Emanuel Mansilla adds that football is the glue that binds Argentinian migrants.
“We are always trying to connect with other Argentinian people within our community,” he says.
“[With football], we are together the whole time. It’s why we love it; hugging, supporting, singing together.”
Brazilian football ‘like a religion’
No one does football like Brazil, with some of the most passionate supporters and best players in the world.
When Adilson Andrade de Melo Júnior moved to Australia, he knew there was a spread of sports compared to back home in Brazil.
“It’s hard to explain … in Brazil when you talk about football, soccer, it’s part of the culture. It’s a religion in a way,” he says.
“Everyone follows, every four years we stop for this magnificent event.
“Whenever Brazil comes here, myself and a couple of other friends, we get together trying to organise tickets for everyone and being close to each other.
“Last game that Brazil had here we probably had over 300 people sitting together cheering, which was an amazing atmosphere.”
Zambia’s Copper Queens inspiring a nation
Zambia is one of eight countries making its tournament debut, and no one is more excited to sing their praises than the country’s High Commissioner for Australia and New Zealand, Dr Elias Munshya.
“It’s a huge, huge time for us,” he says.
“It’s amazing just to see the impact that this qualification of Zambia National Women’s [team] has had on young girls in Zambia.
“These players have inspired a whole generation of young girls that believe in themselves, that they believe they can achieve, that are fighting for equality, that are fighting for equity.”
Nigerians use sport as a form of survival
As Africa’s top-ranked nation, Nigeria’s women’s national team has plenty of support, including from Toyin Abbas.
“From day one, we embedded with soccer because we were colonised by Britain,” he says.
“It’s one of the reasons people play sports in Africa.”
As he knows well as a former professional player, Toyin played football, just as the Super Falcons players do so across the globe.
“People started to see soccer as a form of survival. Like you want to earn a living and it’s tough for some families, it’s very tough for some individuals.
“It unifies relations, the people, it binds people together.”
As Toyin says, the Super Falcons players will have success if they stay tactically disciplined together.
“We’re going to win the trophy, I will tell you,” he says.
“The Nigerian team, we have what it takes, we can be world beaters.”
Canada to ‘knock people’s socks off’
Stacey, Dylan and their three boys hail from Edmonton, Alberta.
They’re a long way from home but their Canadian national pride is never far away.
“We’re really, really proud. I think they have a really good chance of winning, [we’re] really hopeful, we will be cheering them on,” Stacey says
Equally ecstatic is Rod Johns, president of the Canada Club in Melbourne.
“I think it’s great that they’re coming because the girls don’t get enough exposure, it’s good for soccer in Australia, and it’s good for women’s sports in general, Mr Johns said.
“Based on their pre-performance I think they’ll knock some people’s socks off, they should do very well.”
- Reporting: Amanda Shalala, Damien Peck, Kate O’Halloran, Ruth Assefa Brook
- Photography: Amanda Shalala, Brendan Esposito, Damien Peck, Evan Morgan Grahame, Simon Tucci, Ruth Assefa Brook, Nicholas Haggarty, Kate O’Halloran
- Video: Amanda Shalala, Damien Peck, Simon Tucci, Ruth Assefa Brook, Nicholas Haggarty, Geoff Kemp, Adam Griffiths, Sean Warren
- Editing and production: Johanna McDiarmid, Amanda Shalala, Damien Peck
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