The start-up determined to fix major problem facing Aussie girls and women

While it may seem the Matildas are driving a soccer revolution for women, it can be a very different story for those lower down the pyramid.

While the Uzbekistan women's football team's visit to Australia didn't go to plan with a 10-0 drubbing at the hands of the Matildas this week, it was far from plain sailing even before the game.

An unfortunate turn of events days before the all-important showdown left the team without a place to train. They were quickly put in touch with sports start-up Pitch Up who are determined to eradicate the inequalities between men's and women's sports in Australia. Pitch Up was immediately able to place the team at the premium sporting facilities at Melbourne's Marcellin College.

And while the urgent search on Sunday for an appropriate field to prepare on was not the result of the women's game being neglected to prioritise the men, it's a perfect example of how Pitch Up plans to be there for women's sport when they need it most.

The Uzbekistan women's team training in Melbourne on Monday
The Uzbekistan women's team were able to access world-class facilities at the last minute thanks to Pitch Up. Source: Alessandro Salamone

"Everyone should have an equal opportunity to participate in sport, regardless of their gender," Partnerships Manager Tom Clark told Yahoo News Australia.

Backed by the Victorian government, Pitch Up is a simple-to-use platform for women's and girls' teams to access premium sporting facilities near them; an opportunity they can often be denied. While the Matildas are arguably now the main draw of Australian soccer, lower levels of the female footballing pyramid are not receiving the same treatment and can often miss out on pitches and facilities as men's teams are prioritised.

One key supporter of Pitch Up's ambitions is Helen Tyrikos, head of women's football at Heidelberg United. She has long been a campaigner to bridge the gap between the men's and women's games.

Pitch Up's Tom Clark, an Uzbekistan team member and a Football Australia member pose for a picture.
Tom Clark (left) was able to help organise a last-minute training facility for the Uzbekistan national team. Source: Alessandro Salamone

"I started in the men's game and I saw the inequities and I decided that I needed to do something about it because I have a daughter that plays. I've seen it through her eyes, the injustice," she previously told the ABC.

Australia can be example of level playing field

For the Uzbekistan team, Tom, who joined the team on Monday night, said their experience in Australia was 'invaluable' and now wants to help the women's game in Australia be the gold standard that can inspire other visiting teams.

“It was interesting to note the commentator [on TV] mention that Uzbekistan is probably where Australia was 20-30 years ago... obviously it was a dominant performance by the Matildas and while they deservingly came out on top on the night, I think Uzbekistan come away from this game having gained the most," he told Yahoo.

"The Uzbekistan players have a big future ahead of them and it was our privilege to play a small role in their developmental journey.”

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