Greater Shepparton in the mix for international soccer fixtures

By Tyler Maher

Shepparton is in the running to host international soccer fixtures in 2021, with the next generation of the country's best female footballers a chance to compete in the region.

Football Federation Australia has partnered with Greater Shepparton City Council to submit a second bid to host Asian Football Confederation youth women's qualification matches in Australia early next year.

It follows a joint bid from FFA alongside Cessnock City Council to host a round one qualification group in April for the 2022 AFC Under-17 Women's Asian Cup, with the latest bid surrounding the same stage of the 2022 AFC Under-20 Women's Asian Cup — with the round scheduled for March.

If successful, the bid would bring the Young Matildas to the Goulburn Valley alongside a number of squads from Asian nations to battle it out at McEwen Reserve's “Theatre of Dreams”.

Regional sporting capital of the nation: Greater Shepparton is in the running to host under-20 international soccer fixtures early next year, with the Young Matildas a chance to compete at McEwen Reserve's 'Theatre of Dreams'. Picture: Greater Shepparton City Council.

“We are excited to have partnered with Greater Shepparton City Council to submit another bid to host AFC youth women’s football (contests) in Australia next year,” FFA chief executive James Johnson said.

“This bid — alongside our submission with Cessnock City Council announced in August — aligns with our vision to host more national team matches on home soil, particularly in the lead up to our hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023.

“Like our bid with Cessnock, this submission with Greater Shepparton City Council has taken place in the hope and expectation that the COVID-19 situation in Australia will have improved significantly by 2021. Should we win hosting rights we will work closely with AFC and representatives from all levels of government to deliver the tournament if it is safe to do so.

“We recognise and acknowledge Greater Shepparton for their foresight to work with us on this bid, which may result in some of the potential stars of 2023 featuring in regional Victoria just two years prior to the FIFA Women’s World Cup on our shores.

“The tournament will be a wonderful opportunity for our future stars to showcase their talent in front of friends and family. Football is a global game and we want to create more opportunities for our communities, particularly in regional Australia, to see international matches and connect with the game.”

As well as further cementing the region's status as the regional sporting capital of the nation, a successful bid to host international sport next year would be a huge boost for Greater Shepparton's economy as it looks to recover from a coronavirus-affected year.

“Council is very excited to partner with FFA to bid for such a prestigious international women’s tournament,” City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Seema Abdullah said.

“Securing an event of such calibre would be a real coup for Australia and our region.

“Our community has a proud football history and it would be great for the promotion of the sport in Australia and so inspiring to see our country’s best junior women footballers go up against Asia’s best, in our own backyard at the Shepparton Sports City precinct.

“As the health and safety of our community is the number one priority, if Greater Shepparton were awarded this tournament council will work closely together with FFA to monitor the Chief Health Officer’s directions and government restrictions in the lead up to the 2021 event.

“Local businesses in our visitor economy are doing it tough right now and if the tournament is secured and safe to go ahead it would be a real boost to our business community.”