The Matildas’ magic has swept through Exercise Malabar, with the four participating nations staging a ‘curtain opener’ soccer tournament in Sydney ahead of this week’s historic Women’s World Cup semi-final.
CAPTION: Participants take part in a soccer competition as part of the Exercise Malabar 2023 shore phase in Sydney. Story by Lieutenant Marcus Middleton. Photos by Leading Seaman Matthew Lyall.
With the sea-going phase of the exercise commencing before Wednesday’s world cup final qualifier, players from the United States, Japanese, Indian and Royal Australian navies gathered in Sydney’s The Rocks on August 14 to celebrate.
Players will be participating in a nine-team, 36-game round robin tournament billed as ‘goodwill games’ so personnel from all member nations could compete with each other in a less formal setting.
Striker for the HMAS Brisbane team Able Seaman Jack Wetherall said that while the sporting event seems social, it was an integral part of the exercise promoting interoperability.
“It’s a really important part of the exercise for us to gather with the members of other nations in a casual setting to get to know each other,” Able Seaman Wetherall said.
“Not only does it help to improve relations, but sports are an international language in themselves.”
With the United States women’s team being knocked out in the world cup in the round of sixteen, the crew of the USS Rafael Peralta said they were now banding behind the Australian national team, the Matildas.
United States Navy Petty Officer Third Class and Midfielder Joshua Swies said that despite the competition on the pitch, they would be all cheering for the Aussies come Wednesday.
“The whole ship, we’re all going for Australia. What’s not to love? The Matildas are a true Cinderella story,” Petty Officer Swies said.
Exercise Malabar is a significant Indo-Pacific exercise that deepens the interoperability between Australia’s regional partners India, Japan and the United States.
This year, in its 27th iteration, the exercise will be held off the New South Wales coast from August 10-21, with the Royal Australian Navy hosting for the first time.