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Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 17:48 GMT
Nude footballers kick up a fuss
Amy Taylor Defender AmyTaylor's invitation to the calendar launch

A nude calendar launched on Tuesday featuring the Australian women's soccer team, the Matildas, is set to sell out despite a wave of criticism over its provocative pictures.

I'm really proud of the photos, it shows just how attractive women soccer players can be
Alicia Ferguson, Matildas defender
The calendar, featuring several full-frontal shots and images of two teammates together, has increased its print run from an original 5,000 copies to 45,000 on the strength of pre-publication publicity.

Chief executive of the Australian Women's Soccer Association (AWSA), Warren Fisher said: "This calendar is generating such amazing interest because each of the 12 players are expressing themselves individually."

Hardly the kind of inspirational role models anyone would choose
Sue Williams, Sydney Sun Herald
Speaking to reporters at the Sydney launch, midfield player Alison Forman explained why she posed with teammate and flatmate Sharon Black: "We live together, we train together ... we thought, why not do the shoot together?

"It's turned out great, we really love the shot. It's definitely going up on the living room wall," she said.

Publicity drive

The 12 black-and-white images are said to be "tasteful" and according to AWSA president Shirley Brown it was the only way to increase the profile of the team. "In Australia, women's sport is still considered second rate," she said.

"No matter how good these girls are as soccer players, that is not enough to get the recognition that they deserve."

The Matildas finished 11th in the recent Women's World Cup in the USA and AWSA is currently campaigning for the right to hold the 2003 event.

The Matildas The Matildas - with their kit on
The critics say the fact that sportswomen feel the need to resort to this kind of publicity is depressing. "Women at an elite sports level - and you can understand their frustration - just don't enjoy anywhere near the same kind of funding support (as men)," said Ms Mary Crooks, executive director of the Victorian Women's Trust.

Male fantasy

And writing in Sunday's Sydney Sun Herald newspaper, columnist Sue Williams said the calendar held out the promise that "if the Matildas don't score on the field, male fans could well do so in the dressing room later."

The Matildas respond that they were happy to be part of the calendar.

Nineteen-year-old striker Alicia Ferguson said she was proud to be involved. "The idea was put forward to us and it was our decision whether we wanted to do it or not," she said.

But the short-term goal of attracting media attention would seem to have been achieved: the launch party was described as "standing room only" with television crews from all over Australia and several from abroad.

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