As the Matildas, as hosts Australia are known, get ready to face England in the Women’s World Cup semifinals in Sydney, there is one name more than anyone else’s that is on everyone’s lips. Mary Fowler. Exclamations such as “There is something about Mary” have been rolling off commentator tongues.
Half Irish, Half Papua New Guinean, the Australian striker with dazzling skills and vision has won over the crowds. And she is just 20.
Fowler’s moment of magic at this World Cup was a pass in the Round of 16 game against Denmark. It was a ball Lionel Messi would have been proud of. From her own half, she split the Danish defence with a left-footed through ball for Caitlin Foord to score with a slick left-footed finish through the goalkeeper’s legs.
She also converted in the nerve-jangling penalty shoot-out against France in the quarterfinals.
“Mary Fowler is not even a child,” Australia captain and fellow striker Sam Kerr said after the quarterfinals. “She’s one of the most amazing players in our team. She’s 20 years old, she has a head on her like she’s 30, and been around for 100 years.”
Coach Tony Gustavsson was full of praise too. “She plays beyond her years in terms of maturity,” he said. “She understands her defending role, she can spin on a dime in terms of her technique, talking about entertainment her technical skills are just one of a kind.”
Fowler, who started playing for Australia at just 15, and plays club football for Manchester City, was born in Cairns. The second of five football crazy siblings, she has a lot of fans in Papua New Guinea as well. In Kira Kira, her mother Nido’s village, watch parties are held during the World Cup and banners are hung as tributes to Fowler.
“Touches my heart...so proud to be Papuan,” Fowler recently posted on Instagram, with photographs of the village and its local fans.
Meanwhile, Matildas fever is sweeping Australia. The Boomers, Australia's men's basketball team, advanced their practice against Brazil by a couple of hours when they realized it was clashing with the Women’s World Cup semis.
“The Matildas have really captured the nation this World Cup,” said Patty Mills, the Boomers captain and Atlanta Hawks guard. “The way the ladies play with so much heart and passion has been so inspiring to witness. Just like the rest of the country, our Boomers team have been locked in for each game, watching it as a team."
All over Australia, schedules are being adjusted to watch and support the Matildas.
“Supporting our fellow Australian athletes is crucial, so moving our game was an easy decision," said Mills. "We are super excited to join the rest of Australia in watching the ladies on Wednesday after we play our second game in Melbourne. Up the Tillies!”