Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday backed calls for a public holiday if its team wins the Women’s World Cup.
The Matildas are through to the semifinals of the tournament, which Australia is co-hosting with New Zealand, after a gripping penalty shootout win against France on Saturday, with goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold saving three spot-kicks after missing her own.
They play European champions England in Sydney on Wednesday in a match likely to smash Australian TV viewing figures for a football game.
“I’ve said that the state and territory leaders should consider it and I know that it’s received a pretty warm reception in most quarters,” Albanese said in a radio interview with state broadcaster ABC when asked if calls for a public holiday were justified.
“This is something much more than just a sporting event. This is an inspiration to young girls in particular, but also young boys.”
Australia’s federal system means additional public holidays can be called individually by its states and territories, with Albanese saying the issue will be discussed with regional leaders on Wednesday.
Chris Minns, the leader of the country’s most populous state of New South Wales, on Monday, pledged to declare a public holiday within a week of the final if the Matildas win.
Football has long lagged behind other more popular footballing codes like rugby league and Australian rules in the country, with the women’s game in particular struggling with sparse crowds and a lack of funding.
But the Matildas’ World Cup matches have sold out months in advance, with millions watching at home in numbers not seen since the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
In 1983, then-Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke effectively declared a national public holiday after an Australian crew ended 132 years of U.S. dominance of America’s Cup sailing race, famously saying that “any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum”.
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