Mustangs FC: the Australian TV show kicking goals for women’s football internationally
A home grown TV show about girls' football that knows no boundaries24 December 2018 | Con Stamocostas
If you haven’t heard of ABC TV show Mustangs FC it’s probably because you’re not the target demographic, but there is a good chance your primary-school aged children have and they love it.
Mustangs FC follows the adventures of Marnie who together with her friends juggle school as well as the ups and downs of being an all-girls multicultural football team.
The first season mirrored some of the same issues the W-League faced when it began such as sharing change rooms and having to play on sub-standard pitches.
For 13 nail-biting episodes Mustangs FC takes you on a journey with the girls as they strive to make the finals. To get there they must overcome having no uniforms, being coached by an inexperienced parent and having to deal with sexism.
After narrowly losing their first game the Mustangs facilities improve and they start to get better on the park, but off-field distractions threaten to derail their march to the finals. Do they make it? Well I can’t tell you that you have to watch for yourself.
The ABC show has transcended Australia with the first series broadcast on the UK’s CBBC as well as Universal Kids in the Unites States which is distributed by NBC Universal.
Launched on the International Day of the Girl in 2017, season one was also nominated for an International Emmy Kids Award with the winners to be announced on Tuesday April 9, 2019 in Cannes, France.
One of the directors of Mustangs FC is Ana Kokkinos whose career over the last 20 years has spanned film and TV. She is recognised as one of Australia’s most renowned directors having worked on films such as ‘Head On’ and award-winning ABC TV show ‘Seven Types of Ambiguity.’
Kokkinos just finished directing the last three episodes of series two which sees the show tackle bullying, body image, sexuality and mansplaining. She says exploring those themes was a real motivating factor in why she chose to work on Mustangs FC.
“After watching the first series last year I really loved it and I wanted to be part of the show,” she says. “It’s a really positive show and for me I am always attracted to TV work that in some way I feel is socially and culturally relevant. So that is the kind of show Mustangs FC is and it’s also a lot of fun. It speaks to some very important issues for young women.”
Kokkinos revealed that another driving force behind why she loved working on Mustangs FC was that the narrative centred on women’s sport.
“What attracted me to the show was it’s about a young group of girls who form a soccer team and play soccer competitively,” she says. “That got me in because I love the idea of young women playing sport. So there was something really positive about these young girls playing sport, which is something I did a lot as a kid, so I really related to that idea. I played Aussie Rules, that was my thing when I was a kid, but I actually played a little bit of soccer as well.”
Another major pull for Kokkinos was how Mustangs FC presented stories that were told from the female point of view.
“The second thing that I really liked was the fact that the story centred on the girls themselves,” she says. “It’s not about whether the girl is going to get the boy, it’s not about playing to the boys. It’s absolutely female centric in the way they tell those stories. It’s also about those girls being empowered to tell their stories.”
Much of Kokkinos’ previous work has centred on cultural identity and with Mustangs FC featuring characters from various nationalities the Greek-Australian says that aspect really spoke to her.
“It’s very culturally diverse,” she says. “You have one girl who is Asian, another girl who is from an Italian background and another girl is South Sudanese. So there is a great cultural mix of girls who are cast in that show. So there are three good reasons, positive cultural reasons, to do the show. As I said it’s also a lot fun and it’s been a very popular show for the ABC.”
Earlier this year research conducted by Roy Morgan revealed over 400,000 female participants played football - an increase of nearly 10% from the previous year. Kokkinos believes part of Mustangs FC’s popularity is down to young budding female footballers wanting to see themselves represented on screen.
“For me to see that explosion of women’s participation in sport and then entering into that male dominated area it’s so important and so crucial,” she says.
“When we look at the way that women’s sport in the last couple of years has evolved in terms of the AFLW, the Matildas and football internationally, it’s a huge area of growth. When I was a kid if I had of been able to play either Aussie Rules or soccer more seriously I would’ve have done it. But there was no opportunity for me to do that when I was growing up.”
mustangs fc, girls football, abc, ana kokkinos