South Wallsend Junior Soccer Club have benefited financially from Gema Simon’s efforts at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France thanks to a FIFA program.
Simon was playing with Newcastle Football club South Wallsend in the Herald Women’s Premier League prior to the tournament.
Because South Wallsend were required to release Simon to play at the World Cup, the club were entitled to a payment of more than $10,000 from FIFA as part of the international governing body’s Club Benefits Program.
South Wallsend became the 10th Northern NSW Football representatives to be identified as a training club for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with the others all clubs that either Simon or fellow Matilda Emily van Egmond had played with previously.
South Wallsend JSC secretary Angela Jordan said the money meant everything to her club.
“When we transferred our WPL program to Broadmeadow Magic in 2020 there were moments of disappointment. We had worked so hard over the years to create a pathway for our female participants,” Jordan said.
“On one hand we knew with our facilities we would not be able to sustain our involvement in the premier competition and on the other hand letting go of the program left a big gap in our club.
“The money will go back into the club to help us improve our facilities.”
Jordan said South Wallsend receiving money from FIFA’s Club Benefits Program highlighted the importance of being part of the football pyramid.
“To see professional football players playing in our local premier competitions is a credit to our local football community and the volunteers behind these clubs who work tirelessly to make these connections and grow our sport,” Jordan said.
“It certainly assisted our club when we were recruiting players for the women’s premier league.
“Gema is amazing and we are beyond proud and thankful to her for the contributions she made to our club. I remember after one of our games she was approached by a young fan for an autograph and without any hesitation she put the biggest smile on that young girl’s face.
“That’s why we love her. She’s not just a professional athlete, she is a friend to many and we will forever be proud that we had an Australian Matilda represent our club.”
Northern NSW Football CEO David Eland said the outcome further demonstrated the benefits of alignment of football nationally and globally, from community clubs right through to international football.
“This is a wonderful result for a great community club like South Wallsend,” Eland said.
“And it shows why it is so important for the game to be connected from the community level through to its Member Federation, the national governing body in Football Australia and international governing body in FIFA.”
The program was a way for FIFA to recognise the importance of club football in developing the women’s game and improving its professionalism, with clubs across the world paid $8.48 million (USD).
It was the first time the program had been used for a women’s World Cup.
Simon was an unused substitute for Australia’s three group B games which included a 2-1 defeat to Italy, a 3-2 victory over Brazil and a 4-1 win over Jamaica.
The Matildas finished second in their group but were then eliminated 4-1 on penalties after playing out a 1-1 draw with Norway in their round of 16 clash.
The USA retained their World Cup crown after defeating the Netherlands 2-0 in the final.