Munich: The German women’s team are two-time FIFA World Cup champions, and one of the favourites to win the title once again this year, having breezed into the quarter-finals where they will face Sweden on Saturday. However, the picture for women’s football in Germany is not as rosy as you’d imagine.
Just before the World Cup began, an ad featuring the women’s national team players went viral showing the problems female footballers in the country have had to face in pursuit of the sport.
On a day Germany sealed their knockout stage qualification with a win over South Africa, former German footballer Bianca Rech, who is currently the manager of the Bayern Munich women’s team, spoke to Firstpost about the state of women’s football in Germany, what the national federation must do for the women’s game, and what clubs like Bayern Munich are doing right.
The German women’s national team has won the World Cup twice in the past besides finishing as runner's up on the third occasion. Germany are one of the favourites for the title again this time around. What would you say is their secret?
I wouldn’t say there is a secret. The success of the recent years and the World Cup titles stand for a continuous growth in women’s football in Germany. In particular, the development of young players.
However, it’s important to note that other countries have been catching up and have done excellent work in the recent years. It will be difficult to win the third World Cup title.
The mood in Germany is at fever-pitch during the men’s World Cup. Would you say that the case is the same during the Women’s World Cup?
It’s certainly not the same as you would expect during a men’s World Cup. But the interest in the Women’s World Cup has been increasing in the last few days. If the teams can provide exciting games with a good quality of football we can impress audiences and build a “mood" during the tournament.
Could you tell us a little about the state of women's football in Germany?
Women’s football in Germany has lived a lot from the successes of the past years. Not only the success of the national team, but also by the success of the clubs on an international level (UEFA Women’s Champions League). Unfortunately, we did not have the same evidence of results in the last few years. These failures made the development more difficult. In addition, other nations are catching up so the gap has gotten smaller.
There was a very provocative ad that became very popular recently featuring the German women’s football team earlier this month. In it, players talk about how they not only have to fight opponents on the pitch, but also have to wrestle prejudices off it as well. The ad goes on to point that they play for a country that doesn’t even know their names. As someone who has played for the German nation team, what are your views on this.
Personally, I really like the promotional ad. It’s funny, and provocative. It says a lot about the current perception of women’s football, especially here in Germany. It’s time to wake up the people and for sure this promotion helped.
You were a professional footballer yourself, who also played for the national team. Could you tell us how much the state of women’s football has progressed from the time you first started playing football to now?
When I finished my career four years ago, I never believed this rapid development could be possible. Especially in the last two years, women’s football has seen an incredible development worldwide. Women’s football has become a part of the society and has also gained momentum in the context of gender equality issues. I’m looking forward where the journey will take us.
Could you tell us a little about Bayern Munich’s contribution to Germany’s national women’s team over the years?
Of course there is a regular exchange with the staff of the national team. In recent years, Bayern Munich has provided a lot of players to the German women’s national team as well as in the youth national teams. This year we have seven German players from the club at the World Cup.
Like you mentioned, the current German women's team has seven players who played for Bayern Munich Women the previous season, which is more than any other club. Could you tell us what Bayern Munich is doing right in terms of the women’s game? Could you also elaborate on the age group footballing structure in place at Bayern Munich for women’s football?
It is part of our strategy to promote and develop German players. However, it is also important to convince top players from abroad to play for our club.
We have four female teams: two teams which are U17 sides, another team which is mainly an U20 team and the women's team. We are starting with an age group of around 14-15 year olds while the oldest player in the first team is 33. Younger talented girls play mostly with boys before the decide to play for us.
While the men's Bundesliga has multiple divisions and relegation-promotion system, the women's league is just contested by 12 teams. Do you think more needs to be done to popularise the women's game in Germany?
It’s important that we continue to establish our league and not lose the connection in Europe. Leagues in England and Spain are just showing us how to develop women’s football in their country. The leagues and teams are getting more professional in terms of infrastructure, player contracts, commercialisation, fan engagement etc. Not only the German Football Federation, but also clubs have to show much more commitment.
Are there any aspects of women’s football in Germany that you want to see get better in Germany in future?
We need to develop our own league and for sure we need more commitment by the clubs. Sponsors should see the potential of women’s football and help to grow the game.
Another aspect is the German Football Federation. At the moment, it feels the conviction and belief is missing. It seems there is no plan and strategy.
What would winning another World Cup title mean to the women's game?
To win another World Cup title would be amazing and would also help the development of women’s football in Germany.
The writer is one of the eight journalists in Germany as part of the Robert Bosch Media Ambassadors Program.
Updated Date: Jun 28, 2019 16:29:28 IST