Venues across the Illawarra are preparing for record-breaking crowds when Australia take on England on Wednesday night for a place in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final.
The Australian team won last Saturday’s scoreless clash against France in a nail-biting 20-shot penalty shootout after almost 40 minutes of extra time, the longest tiebreaker in FIFA World Cup history.
Fraternity Club employee Serena Lucato said that there was “not a spare seat in sight” at the Fairy Meadow Bar and that the crowds continued to grow as the game progressed.
“Both in the restaurants and in the sports bar, everyone came in hordes hours early to prepare with their banners and their signs, and everyone was dressed up,” Ms Lucato said.
“The atmosphere was absolutely amazing.”
Wollongong Council has set up two large screens in the CBD following the blistering form of the Matildas throughout the tournament.
Director of Community Services Kerry Hunt said in a press release that there had been “a really great atmosphere with lots of patrons to local bars and restaurants gathering to watch the game”.
Bevanda Bar in Globe Lane, had been pushing Council to deliver the screens in time for the ‘Tillies’ run in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, just as they had done for the Socceroo’s in 2022.
Bartender Jimi Pearson said the atmosphere was comparable to having “Europe in your street”.
“When the Matildas score, everyone goes crazy,” he said.
“We were actually thinking of getting plastic cups instead of glass, so people can actually throw [them] up in the air.
“It’s a lot of fun to work behind the bar.”
Mr Pearson said his venue was prepared to handle the crowds set to arrive for the next Matilda’s game on Wednesday night.
“We’re gonna have a security guard on, we’ve got extra staff ready to go, and we just love to have fun – and when people are doing the right thing, it’s so easy to have fun.”
Ms Lucato said it’s been an exciting time working at the Fraternity Club during such a major sporting event.
“Having such lovely co-workers made the experience better because we could all collectively share and enjoy the atmosphere,” she said.
“In that moment, the employees and all the customers were united in hoping to see Australia win.”
Pubs and clubs across the Illawarra are set to see even bigger crowds this week as Australia and England battle for a spot in the final at Stadium Australia in Sydney. Meanwhile, on Tuesday night, the undefeated Spanish women’s team will take on Sweden.
(Header image – Inset: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images; Background: The Fold Illawarra)