STAR: Australia forward Sam Kerr reacts after scoring as Japan defender Rio Sakamoto looks on during the first half of a Tournament of Nations women's soccer match Sunday, July 30, 2017, in San Diego.
STAR: Australia forward Sam Kerr reacts after scoring as Japan defender Rio Sakamoto looks on during the first half of a Tournament of Nations women's soccer match Sunday, July 30, 2017, in San Diego. Gregory Bull

Light shining on Matildas should create great opportunities

OPINION:

AS THE men's version is shaken by more corruption claims involving senior FIFA and UEFA officials, and is marred by the theatrics of supposed superstars, the FIFA Women's World Cup is quietly nailing it.

The Aussie women, led by Sam Kerr, are into the play-off rounds and starting to secure major airtime on commercial television.

About time.

But the best bit.

There's no carry on.

These athletes, many of whom sacrifice a hell of a lot to do what they do, are on the world stage and shining.

And the diving is at a minimum.

Football followers are watching Brazilian sensation Neymar's situation, wondering whether he may make another mega-dollar move to a new club.

The money he would command is eye-watering.

His antics at the last major tournament were also eye-watering, for the wrong reasons.

I've been a lifelong football fan.

I love it.

But I totally understand the criticism levelled at the game by others, who simply can't stand the diving and play acting.

For mine, there's a line, somewhere, in it all.

There has to be some level of gamesmanship allowed, as there is in most sports.

But the out and out deception, in an attempt to win an advantage or have an opponent sent off or booked, it's got to stop.

It takes away from the skill and nuance of the game.

I'll be honest.

I'm not the world's biggest fan of women's soccer.

I'm used to the pace of watching English football and find it hard to adjust.

Same goes for the A-League.

But it's hard to argue with the skill level on display by these women at this tournament.

Most professional male athletes are afforded lifestyles few will ever experience.

Pampered. Pandered to.

Removed from reality.

Sure they made sacrifices, or at least their families may have, in the early days, but once they become professionals, for the most part, life gets a whole lot more comfortable.

Not so for the fairer sex.

The pay gap remains significant, and sponsorship dollars hardly flow evenly.

There is an argument that those dollars reflect the size of the audiences, and to a degree I accept that.

But it would be a shame to detract from the efforts of these women.

They overcome massive challenges, often far from the spotlight and riches enjoyed by their male counterparts.

It'd be nice to think the coverage they're starting to command will translate into better wages, more professional, full-time opportunities, and create better pathways for young girls to achieve their sporting dreams.

If not it'd be an opportunity missed, as the Matildas enjoy attention rarely given to our elite female sporting teams, on their current World Cup run.

Let's hope they can take it all the way.