Sale United Football Club defeated their hosts, Traralgon Olympians Soccer Club, 1-0 in the inaugural GO Soccer Mums Gippsland Cup on Sunday, April 2.

Sale’s Jenny McGuinness scored the winning goal just minutes before the final whistle.

Sale United GO Soccer Mums player Jenny McGuinness. Photos: Contributed

Football Victoria’s introductory soccer program designed specifically for women, GO Soccer Mums, offers participants a fun, active and supportive setting to meet new people and learn basic football skills in a social, judgement-free environment.

Decades of evidence highlight the inequities and barriers women and girls in sport and active recreation have and continue to endure, the effects filtering from grassroots levels through to professional competitions.

Football Victoria chief executive Kimon Taliadoros said his role is to influence change, not only at FV but throughout the industry.

“Our target of 50/50 gender balance by 2027 depends on the most senior sports administrators around the country making a conscious mental shift to develop women leaders at all levels in our game – players, coaches, referees and administrators,” Taliadoros said.

“I plan to lead this change as we have clearly outlined in our strategic plan that women and girls is a key focus area and integrated within all our strategic pillars.”

Rather than continually focusing on the injustices, Football Victoria is tackling the root of the problem, focusing on implementing ways to improve the status quo, and change the systems and thought processes that have impeded access and opportunity in the first place.

And so, GO Soccer Mums was established.

Don’t be fooled by the name; GO Soccer Mums is open to all women from age 15, regardless of skill level, whether you’re a ground zero beginner or an ex-Matildas player.

This year, Sale United, a leading Gippsland sporting club in gender equality, commenced the GO Soccer Mums program to encourage active recreation for local women and girls, and increase the participation rate of female football.

Sale GO Soccer Mums coaches – referred to as deliverers in the program – Madeleine Forbes and Laurel Irvine, were overwhelmed by the keen interest from local women and girls, with 24 registering to participate.

“We are so fortunate to have such strong female leaders and coaches at the club, who support and encourage other females to do and be the same and a committee that supports female participation so well,” Forbes said.

“Everyone had such a fantastic day at the Gippsland Cup on Sunday. You could see it on everyone’s faces – each player thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

“It was such a fun, friendly and welcoming environment and so organised; I guess that’s what you get when you get 20-plus mums together!”

Gippsland Cup in action.

Traralgon Olympians, the GO Soccer Mums Gippsland Cup hosting team, organised sponsors for the inaugural event, who provided drink bottles, fresh fruit and veggies, a smoothie blender bike and medals for first place, second place and third place teams.

Oh, and of course, the Gippsland Cup trophy.

“When everyone saw the trophy, the ladies gave it their all and were keen to bring home some silverware,” Forbes said.

“It was phenomenal to see so many friends and families there supporting and volunteering, enabling these women to play.”

While some mums packed bags with games and lunch for their little ones brought along on the day, others sought childcare so they could join their teammates on the evenly trimmed green grass field for their shot at the first-ever Gippsland Cup trophy.

“Ladies on the Sale team had partners temporarily fill their usual volunteer roles for the SUFC men’s team playing on the same day – but this Sunday was about them, for them,” Forbes said.

“So many ladies selflessly give their time to the sport, but rarely get to experience playing themselves.”

Sale’s GO Soccer Mums side consisted of two mother-daughter teams, Forbes describing their playing together, side by side, as a heart-warming picture.

“I had my daughters there, one joining in for the warm-up and one being breastfed in between matches,” Forbes said.

“I think that’s the most beautiful thing about this program; it is designed for busy mums and women, and it gets females participating in the sport whilst fitting in around life.”

Sale United FC and Traralgon Olympians SC GO Soccer Mums teams.

With Football Victoria’s target of 50/50 gender balance by 2027, FV growth and inclusion executive manager, Karen Pearce, said the sustainable growth of women and girl’s football will be dependent on the entire football family to embrace, commit, support, acknowledge and strive towards ensuring a more gender-balanced landscape.

Programs like GO Soccer Mums program are a step in the right direction.

“We must understand and support the differences people bring to football and address each need based on personal, social and environmental factors that impede participation,” Pearce said.

“We must then use this knowledge to ensure traditional and non-traditional methods of engagement are available at all life stages.”

Following a tremendous community receiving in Term 1, Sale United has confirmed the GO Soccer Mums program will be up and running in Term 2.

“We are so thrilled by the number of women who signed up for Term 1 and have enough demand to continue the program in Term 2,” Forbes said.

“For any ladies interested, we will resume GO Mums on Wednesday afternoons in Term 2; please keep an eye on the SUFC Facebook page for full details.”