People can often have the perception that football is a man’s game.
But as women’s football continues to take giant leaps forward both on and off the pitch, this view on the sport is now outdated.
Australia’s national team, the Matildas, has boomed in popularity over the last five years drawing strong crowds around the country.
Participation rates in Australia are on the up as well with almost 160,000 female football participants in 2019 – an 11% increase from the year prior.
And now, more women are filling leadership positions in football administration than ever before.
Western United’s recently appointed Women’s Football Integration Manager, Amanda Stella, represents the changing nature of female influence in sport.
Stella – who also holds the role of Calder United Club President – joined the Green and Black family in February this year, and will play a major role in creating equal opportunities for female footballers, as well as bringing a W-League team to Victoria’s West.
As a Club President, Stella strives towards creating a culture that gives equal opportunity for players to reach their potential.
“I think I was fortunate enough to develop the relationships with players and families as a team manager first, then when I stepped into the committee space, I had a really good idea of how the club needed to run,” Stella said.
“With the support of fellow committee members and coaches, I continued to learn, watch and take in all aspects of the football club to give me the wealth of knowledge needed to run a club.
“Former club President Eric Psarianos, our senior coaches Mark Torcaso and Ian Williamson and our current committee have always been very supportive of me on this journey.
“I think if you have real support from the people around you anything is possible.
“My determination and willingness to keep working hard comes from our amazing players who work so hard every time they put on their Calder training or game day kit - that’s what this is all about.”
Stella acknowledges some of the challenges she’s faced along the way.
But she says that facing challenges is just part of life, and it’s about staying true to yourself that will help you reach your goals.
“For me, there will always be criticisms, but that is football, that is people, that will never change.
“But if you stay true to yourself and have the support from the people around you, it keeps you going and focused on the end goal, which for me is creating opportunities for female footballers.
“Challenges are there for both males and females in positions like mine, it’s how you rise to the challenge and keep going that eventually defines how you are perceived.
“Being a female, yes definitely people at times question your ability to work in football but I am confident that my actions and the way I go about things will show my capability.
“I am always open to new ideas and continue to learn and listen to others with more knowledge.
“This is how I become the best version of myself and grow the skills to continually build on my football journey.”
Along the way, Stella has drawn inspiration from others that has made her want to break down the barriers for females in football.
It was in 2018 when Stella attended a Football Victoria (FV) leadership program and decided she wanted to make a change in the female football space.
“I participated in the program that was facilitated by Helen Tyrikos who was the FV Women’s and Girls Development manager at the time.
“Helen along with the other 15 or so participants who were females working in football inspired me to really make a change in the female space.
“It was at that point it became apparent to me that there are so many barriers for players and for females in leadership that I wanted to work towards creating a change.
“The more people that get involved in creating opportunity and equality the quicker society will make a change.
“I hope along my journey my actions and positive changes will inspire those around me.
“If we as a football community are working towards fifty-fifty participation of boys and girls playing football by 2027, we need to build on females in all aspects of football - coaches, administrators, leadership, referees.
“We want our current and future generations of female footballers to develop in an environment that is built by both males and females.”
In her next chapter, Stella will use her experience to expand the female arm of Western United.
In December 2020, Western and Calder United announced an exciting partnership in which the clubs will share resources and expertise to grow participation and create talent pathways for females in football.
“Together we’ll work towards creating a culture that has women just as important as men and we’ll continue to build the female space in our football landscape.
“My role will be creating the connection between an A-League club moving into the female space of football, predominately for the west but building a landscape that benefits all females on and off the pitch and supporting Western United’s entry into the W-League.”
Stella’s commitment and passion to growing football among females is a testament to her character and is something worth celebrating.
To Stella, International Women’s Day is a fitting reminder of the role women play in society.
“It’s a day to be reminded that women are just as equal in all aspects of our society.
“We have to all work on building the mindset of our communities on why and how we can make this happen.
“It’s a day to acknowledge those that are triumphant in doing this and inspire more to follow in their footsteps.”