International Women’s Day it’s not a day to celebrate, but to raise awareness of all the difficulties and inequities that women experience nowadays. These difficulties also exist in women football. Despite the breakthrough in the feminine category in recent years, it was not always the case. It was a long road, which to date continue to fight.
International Women’s Day is a day that is commemorated around the world to raise awareness about the importance of empowering women in all settings, protecting their rights and ensuring that they can reach their full potential. This day serves to make visible the inequality and discrimination that women still live throughout the world, as well as the urgency of realizing their rights. As well as in everyday activities, in football, there is also discrimination and gender inequality towards women.
A couple of decades ago, football has stopped being a world exclusively for men. The women took the step to dispute the sport they were passionate about. However, there is still a way to go to increase gender equality in football. At the moment the process is being very fast, hopefully, follow this pace. However, there are still obstacles that don’t allow women to have the same privileges as men in this sport. Barriers must be removed as soon as possible to make this sport better.
The huge progress of women’s football
Although today a decent part of the population enjoys the quality of women’s football, it wasn’t always the case. It was until 1980 that FIFA made it official for women to play football in a professional environment and be able to live on it as a job. Even so, before it became official, there were already teams like the Barça Femení that had already played since 1970 without having the FIFA’s “permission”.
The women have played only 8 Women’s World Cup, the same amount of championship if we combine those with countries like Italy and Germany in the male’s football. However, with their short time since it became official, they have generated great growth.
The Women’s World Cup has undergone a great change since its first edition back in 1991 in China. That competition had 12 participants and only 45 teams disputed the qualification phase. The stats of the last World Cup in France in 2019 showed a lot of progress: 24 countries competed to win the title and another 110 didn’t get the ticket after being eliminated in the qualifying phase. Breaking all the records of TV viewers and attendance during the tournament.
According to official FIFA stats, around 26 million women play soccer regularly in 180 countries around the world. For its part, the 2014-2015 UEFA balance sheet on women’s football in Europe shows more interesting data that emphasize the rapid growth of women’s competition in the old continent: the number of women who play football is has multiplied fivefold since 1985, there are more than 7,000 female referees and 21,000 coaches; 53 European countries have a national women’s team and 51 countries organize their own women’s league.
The difficulties of women in this sport
Shared stadiums and little attendance
There are currently very few women’s teams that have their own stadium. Just in August of last year the Barnsley WFC in England announced the construction of the first exclusive stadium for a women’s team in England with an approximate capacity of 2 million people. Most female professional teams share the stadium with the minor categories of male teams, such as the Barça Femení, or play in the stadium of their male first team. Other teams have their own, non-exclusive, coliseum that doesn’t reach 500,000 people.
The good news is that last season there were two important women’s matches in a week. In 2019 Juventus v Fiorentina broke the record of attendance in Italy with 39,000 people at Allianz Stadium and that same week, Atlético v Barça Femení broke the world record in a club game with 60,000 people at the Wanda Metropolitano. Even so, many women’s teams need their exclusive stadium in this sport with a decent capacity.
Extremely low salaries compared to men’s football
In everyday life, the salary of women is significantly lower than that of men. Football, it’s not the exception. In the Women’s professional league of Spain, Primera Iberdrola, players charge the amount that male clubs offer as a minimum wage. The most charged is Lieke Martens of Barça Femení, whose salary is around 120,000 euros gross per year. His salary is equivalent and even lower than that of some youths of Barça and Real Madrid.
However, the minimum wage, and the one that most women earn for playing football, is only 8,000 euros per year. Other players earn around 15,000 euros and less than 2% of players earn more than 40,000 euros. Barça Femení was runner-up in the Champions League last season with a budget of 3.5 million euros. That’s less than the salary of Jeison Murillo last year, center-back that left the Camp Nou having played only 2 games (tie in Huesca and defeat in Balaidos).
La Liga set a minimum salary for the men’s First Division players of 155,000 euros and 77,500 in Second. That’s, the women’s best player in the world in 2017 doesn’t reach the minimum salary of La Liga and 90% of the players earn less than any of the second division league. In fact, in Second B, and some in Third, the players receive higher amounts than those many women’s players.
Discrimination and lack of opportunities
There are also problems that statistics cannot show as discrimination is. In the world, there are millions of women with the desire and dream of playing the beautiful game. Women who have the talent to dominate football but aren’t allowed to play. We live in a society where a person who is born a man already has more advantages than another who is born a woman. In football, the same thing happens, if you are a man you have more opportunities to excel, but if you are a woman, you will have more obstacles than solutions.
Few television rights and few viewers
Another obstacle facing women’s football is television rights. The world record for attendance in a women’s match (Atletico v Barça Femení) wasn’t broadcasted on TV. To watch it, people had to enter on the official YouTube channel of Los Azulgranas.
“Clearly, those of us women who play football wish that there was more coverage.”Marta
There are numerous clubs that have signed contracts with companies to broadcast the games but at such a low price that big teams like Barça Femeni rejected. In Spain, a great advance has been achieved by increasing the average of spectators with an average of 100,000 in the season, according to the reports of Canal GOL, who has the rights to broadcast most of the women’s matches. It’s a large number but for them but the number could get even higher.
Barça Femení: one of the pioneers in women’s football clubs
The Barça Femení were among the first pioneers in promoting women’s football around the world. 10 years before FIFA formalized football in this category there was already a team that did everything to promote football in this genre.
On December 25, 1970, thanks to an initiative of the player Imma Cabecerán, the first match of the women’s club was played at the Camp Nou, with the EU Centelles as a rival. The coach was the legendary former culé goalkeeper Antoni Ramallets, who would hold the position for more than a year. However, that team of Barcelona girls, who wasn’t officially recognized by the Club, couldn’t wear the Barça shirt or use the name of FC Barcelona. The XI that played that Christmas day was called Selección Ciudad de Barcelona and worn a white shirt, blue pants, and Barça socks.
This inspired most European and Spanish teams to do the same. This is how with the support of 8 other clubs they created the first professional League in Spain in the 1988-89 season. From there the rest is history. There have been bad and good moments in which the Blaugranas have been able to dominate Spain and be one of the strongest teams in Europe. We are in this era. Scoring 86 goals and only conceding 6 goals in 21 games is proof of that. They are currently leaders with 59 points, have just won the Women’s Super Cup 10-1 against Real Sociedad and are still alive in the Copa de la Reina and the Champions League.
“Before, we used to spend at least 500 euros each season on two pairs of rubber boots. And 750 if we wanted to also have a pair with aluminum boots. Now, they send me four pairs and a lot of clothes every two months “vicky lozada
– Barça femení player
What is expected on women’s day?
Today is not a celebration. In football, it is clear that there has been a great and rapid progress over the years but there is still a long way to go. Wages, TV rights, poor attendance at stadiums and discrimination. These factors are experienced day by day by women. These are signs that much remains to be done and that, unfortunately, gender inequality still exists.
Today we must realize that women’s football has to be as important as men’s. That women’s football is entertaining. People should start watching more games in this category and promote equality. I hope to see in the following years that these more spectators, fans, women coaches, women presidents in football every day. That there be the same number of fans in the male as the female.
FCB Femeni’s January Player of the Month: Alexia Putellas
Another month down, another couple of wins for FCB Femeni. The team is in smooth sailing towards their second consecutive league title with an otherworldly wins-only season, including 73 goals scored and only 3 conceded. January was a rough month for the Catalan team, however, as they faced multiple match cancellations due to both a freak snowstorm and COVID-19 positives alongside an early Supercopa Femenina exit. Aside from the many downs, there were plenty of positives. FCB Femeni played a history-making match at the Camp Nou, the team’s first competitive match in the iconic stadium, and they dominated in a resounding 5-0 win against local rivals Espanyol Femeni. Later in the month, they smashed Rayo Vallecano Femenino 7-0, and at the end of January, they won the second-ever El Clasico Femenino against Real Madrid, scoring 4 at the Estadi Johan Cruyff.
Given the many iconic moments in this month alone, it was never going to be an easy choice. Plenty of players showed up big this month. Asisat Oshoala seems to have returned to form after a rough few months, scoring four goals and having many quality performances aside from her goalscoring. Melanie Serrano has had one of her best seasons in recent memory, and her performances this month were no exception. But if there was one player who came in clutch and made history, it was Alexia Putellas. She started the year strongly by being the first-ever woman to score a competitive goal at the Camp Nou. Her free kick in the dying minutes of the Supercopa Femenina saved Barcelona from going out in regular time against Atletico Madrid. At the end of the month, she drew first blood in the second-ever Clasico, imposing herself against Los Blancos with relative ease. Aside from her goalscoring, she once again had multiple dominant performances in terms of her assisting, passing, and attacking play. Once again, Alexia Putellas is deservedly our player of the month for January.
Primera Iberdrola – RCD Espanyol Femeni (Camp Nou) (6/1/2021): 5-0
• Minutes: 90
• 1 Goal
January 6th marked a historic day for Barcelona as they entered the Camp Nou pitch for the first time after 50 years. The Blaugranas started the game on a bright note with Alexia dictating the play. At the 4th minute of the game, Alexia had a tame shot at the goal following a cut-back from Melanie Serrano. As the shots racked up in the beginning minutes, it looked like Barca would follow this season’s pattern of scoring an early goal. However, Barca were devoid of any clear cut chances after that, and Espanyol started to grow defensively as time went on.
The second big chance fell to Alexia Putellas in the 43rd minute after a cutback this time from Patri following a beautiful couple of moves inside the box. Again, Alexia’s shot was too weak with her right foot and it found the hands of the goalkeeper. However, Alexia made up for her misses when the turning point of the game came in the 45th minute. During a stoppage-time corner, Alexia raced past the marker to head the ball into the far corner of the net, giving Barca some much-needed breathing room going into the half-time. Barca cruised to victory in the second half with a scoreline of 5-0 after goals from Melanie Serrano, Marta Torrejon, Lieke Martens, and Ana Maria Crnogocevic, which ended any hopes of a comeback for the local rivals.
Spanish Supercopa Femenino: Semi Finals – Atletico Madrid Femenino (A) (13/1/2021): 1-1 ( 3-1 PT)
• Minutes: 120
• Goals: 1
Barca played Atléti in the Spanish Supercup semifinal on January 13th. Both the teams were going into the game after Spain’s freak snowstorm, “Filomena,” canceled all the league’s Madrid-based weekend matches. Atlético Madrid announced the re-hiring of manager Dani Gonzalez on the eve of the matchday, sparking a lot of excitement going into the game. The game followed a similar pattern to that of the one played in August when Barça defeated Las Colchoneras to clinch a spot in the UWCL semifinals. As expected, Atleti defended with 9 women at the back and played long balls to Ludmila whenever they had a chance to counter.
Even though Barcelona dominated the game, they failed to score and paid for their lack of effectiveness when Atléti were awarded a penalty in the 66th minute. Merel van Dongen then converted it to give Madrid the advantage. It looked like everything was lost until the 90th minute when Alexia was brought down at the edge of the box. Although it looked like Barcelona was going to lose in regular time, the midfielder had other ideas and took matters into her own hands. Alexia scored a sublime free-kick past a diving Hedvig Lindahl who, until then, was keeping Barca at bay for 90 excellent minutes. In the end, it was not enough for Barca as they paid the price for not converting their chances, also being kept down by some harsh refereeing decisions not going their way. The Catalans ended up losing to Atléti on penalty kicks and were knocked out of the tournament, thereby missing their first possible title of the year.
Primera Iberdrola – Rayo Vallecano (H) (20/1/2021): 7-0
• Minutes: 72
• Goals: 2
FCB Femeni came into the game after their tough semifinal loss to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Supercup, hoping to get back into their rhythm. Barça scored an early goal inside 5 minutes after Alexia’s header was parried into the feet of Jennifer Hermoso. After the first goal, it was one-way traffic for the home side as they punctured Rayo’s defense with another 3 goals- Alexia being the catalyst of each of them.
Alexia scored her first goal of the game following Melanie’s cross. She stayed in position and gracefully chipped over the keeper’s head to double Barca’s lead. She remained a key part of the midfield in tracking back and dictating the entirety of the half and scored her second goal following a well-worked team move. In the 40th minute of the game, Asisat Oshoala was sent through by Jennifer Hermoso, and Asisat teed up Caroline Graham-Hansen to score from close range. However, Hansen’s shot was blocked and the ball fell into the path of Alexia for an easy tap-in. Barça easily swept past mid-table Rayo to remain top of the table after the matchday.
Primera Iberdrola – Real Madrid (H) (31/1/2021): 4-1
• Minutes: 87
• Goals: 1
• Second Assists:1
Barça faced their new league rival Real Madrid Femenino in the last game of the month, 11 days after their match against Rayo due to multiple match cancellations. This was expected to be a totally different game compared to their first encounter, as Los Blancos have grown into the league and were occupying the second-place position at the time. All the match previews indicated that Real Madrid were in great form, recording only 3 losses in 15 games, with a much more balanced and cohesive team than their first game against the Blaugranas. Additionally, if the team from Spain’s capital won at the Estadi Johan Cruyff, they would’ve gone to the top of the league.
The match started with Real Madrid and Barcelona both going on the offense and trying to assert themselves. Despite Madrid entering the match bravely and attacking well, Barcelona scored first just 14 minutes into the match. Once again, it was the captain, Alexia Putellas, who kicked it off for the Catalan team. Alexia was intuitive in collecting the ball at the edge of the box and scoring a blistering strike to the top left of the net that Misa Rodriguez struggled to get a hand on. From then, it was a similar pattern as the first Clásico, and Barça advanced to a 3 goal lead by the end of the first half. The match proved that Madrid’s women have improved a lot, but they were never a match to the 2019-20 champions as Barca ran out winners 4-1 at the end of full-time.
When Alexia is fit and firing, there isn’t a way to stop her from creating chances and scoring goals. After her breakout out season last year, she’s continued her form and is having yet another world-class season. Alexia only continues to get better and better, and with a lot of important competitions in the next few months, her performances will be integral to the success of the club.