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  • Writer's pictureCody Ojeda

The festival providing a platform for emerging female football writers

The build-up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Australian soil is set to be accelerated with the Football Writers Festival commencing in Sydney this weekend. Fair Play Publishing hosts the annual event, showcasing writers and stories across Australian football, in partnership with the Johnny Warren Football Foundation. It will occur between July 15 and 17, with prominent voices in Australian football and special guests from across the world set to feature.

The event offers fans the perfect chance to celebrate Australian football, with programs providing everything from the history of the world game in the country to debates surrounding its future. The 2023 lineup includes several high-profile names in Australia, such as Craig Foster AM, Francis Awaritefe, Andy Bernal, Simon Hill, and Adam Peacock, alongside international guests such as Thomas Hitzlsperger, Philippe Auclair, and Zambia Football Association President Andrew Kamanga.

With the festival taking place so close to the Women’s World Cup, several programs are exploring the women's football landscape in Australia, and World Cup-specific programs featuring several high-profile women in football, including Elissia Carnavas, Ciara McCormack, and former Matildas player and coach Trixie Tagg.

These programs will explore the Matildas' history, discuss the future trajectory of women’s football, and debate the Women’s World Cup's impact in Australia.

Trixie Tagg (left), a member of the first Matildas squad in 1975, with Craig Foster AM (right) at the 2019 Football Writers Festival. (Craig Foster Facebook)

A celebration of outstanding aspiring female football writers worldwide is being scheduled, as the Emerging Women’s Football Writers Global Competition winners are also presented.

Fair Play Publishing ran a global women’s writers’ competition to celebrate ambitious women showing promise in the field. The competition began in September 2022, and in March this year, 17 women were recognised from 11 different countries, across six continents, with the three winners being acknowledged in person at the Football Writers Festival this weekend.

Olga Bagatini from Brazil was named in first place for her profile on legendary Brazilian striker Sissi. The forward was the joint top scorer at the 1999 Women's World Cup but is a relative unknown in the country she represented so valiantly.

“I am absolutely delighted with this opportunity. I can't wait to represent Latin America at the 2023 Football Writers' Festival, exchange with writers from all over the world, and be able to bring Sissi's story to a wider audience through the anthology,” Bagatini told Fair Play Publishing.

Olga Bagatini. (Image supplied by Fair Play Publishing)

Steffany Wangari Ndei from Kenya focused on her journey as a football fan watching the 2002 World Cup, playing college soccer in the USA under a scholarship, and falling out of love with the game before returning to her home country to manage a boys’ team. She finished second for her efforts.

“Bar the disbelief, I am stoked to meet and learn from the heavyweights in the industry of sports journalism as well as the upcoming heavy hitters,” Ndei said.

Steffany Wangari Ndei. (Image supplied by Fair Play Publishing)

The third winner was Alina Ruprecht from Germany. She explored the female investors at women’s football club FC Viktoria Berlin, their impact on the club, and their ambition to elevate it through the German football ranks.

“When I received the invitation to attend the Football Writers’ Festival in Sydney, I was completely speechless. This is an incredible opportunity to meet the other emerging women’s writers and read all the stories that are to be published in the anthology, and I am thrilled that the judges appreciated my work," Ruprecht said.

Alina Ruprecht. (Image supplied by Fair Play Publishing)

All three winners explored differing topics in their work. Bagatini looked to uncover a historical story of an icon in her country, Ndei focused on her story and experiences, and Ruprecht wrote about the current venture and future ambitions of a group of women.

When looking at the full 17 selected entrants, the topics explored diversify further to sociocultural issues in women’s football, its development in their countries, and more personal stories like Ndei's. The passion and drive to uncover unique stories in women’s football is crucial to the sport's development.

This competition provided a platform for emerging global writers to showcase their talent. It resulted in the collection of 17 distinct women’s football stories. Celebrating the winners in Australia is an opportunity to inspire female football writers in the country through the personal journeys of the winners and other top female writers.

All 17 selected entrants will have their submissions published in a collection titled “Hear Us Roar – an anthology of emerging women football writers”. The three winners will help unveil this collection during the festival. ‘Hear Us Roar’ is one of the festival's key themes this year and refers to women with the ambition to showcase their stories and discuss how they plan to move forward in their careers.

Another theme on show in 2023, ‘Big Ideas’, is reflected through the goals and plans for the game's future on and off the pitch, including discussing ideas that help the sport improve and be a force for good. It’s a theme highlighted in several of the submitted pieces appearing in the ‘Hear Us Roar’ anthology, as many writers have used this opportunity to underline areas of change they see in their countries or the inspiring stories of female trailblazers who have and are achieving their dreams.

While the festival helps bring together different writers and voices across football, it goes beyond this purpose. The potential for exchanging ideas and opinions between people of different backgrounds in the game aims to aid its growth. The timeliness of having these discussions in the lead-up to the Women’s World Cup could help set the foundations of how women’s football, particularly women’s football media, grows following the tournament.

The festival's timing should further fuel the football hype that is starting to gain momentum in recent weeks. This festival presents an opportunity to see several high-profile people in football all in one place and all contributing to discussions around the game's growth moving forward.



One of many programs discussing the current and future landscape of women's football. (Twitter: @FbalWritersFest)

This festival presents a significant opportunity for women's football as the programs scheduled will help new fans delve into the women's game. But even those already invested should develop a deeper understanding of its history.

The Football Writers Festival begins this Saturday, July 15 and will run until Monday, July 17, in Walsh Bay, Sydney. Tickets are still available and can be purchased on the festival's website.

Click here to read more FPF content about Australian football culture!


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