By ANN ODONG
It’s 4.30am on a Sunday morning in the Australian winter and in the Hervey Bay, Queensland 14 year old Izabella Palmero is woken up by her mother Michelle Hebblewhite to prepare for another game of football.
Two hours later and 320kms away in Redland Bay, Queensland, Sandra Jones is also navigating the match day routine with Jordan (10) and Charli (5), as is Samantha Murray with six year old Savannah in Agnes Banks, NSW and Shari Maguire with 11 year old Claire Falls in Tuggeranong, ACT.
In fact, this routine is played out by thousands of mothers and hundreds and thousands of daughters from the East to the West Coast of Australia; and those numbers are growing every year as girls across the country take up football in great numbers.
And it’s a wonderful thing. For the family, for the mothers, and especially for the daughters.
Several studies have demonstrated the benefits for girls who participate in sport. From better grades at school and lower school dropout rates, higher self-esteem and lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis.
However for these mothers and daughters, their football journey is about more than the research. Much more.
Lighting of the flame
For these mothers all their daughters caught the football bug at a young age. Izabella (at 5), Jordan (at 8), Charli (at 5), Claire (at 8) and for Savannah Murray and Teigen Allen, their first ball was kicked not long after their first steps were walked.
Michelle Hebblewhite found Izabella’s interest in football surprising.
“Bella at the age of five came home from school and asked to play football with her friends from school,” she remembered.
“I had never been involved in football before. I had played hockey as a child so it was all new.”
It was also new to Velvet Allen, mother of Matildas’ and Western Sydney Wanderers defender Teigen Allen, while for Samantha Murray, Shari Maguire and Sandra Jones, who were brought up with the game, watching their daughters catch the bug was joy.
“My family has always been involved in soccer,” remembers Sandra Jones. ” My Mum played many years ago when she was a teenager and growing up my brother played and my Dad coached.”
Regardless of their introduction to the game it wasn’t long before all the mothers were fully immersed in the world of the “football mum.”