The women's Bundesliga's 22/23 season started with a bang, with the league's all-time spectator record being broken. The game itself saw Frankfurt secure a 0-0 against title challengers Bayern.
When Bayern Munich's new signing Georgia Stanway went into a crunching tackle, earning herself a yellow card only seven minutes into her Bundesliga debut and almost taking out one of her own teammates in the process, jeers rang out throughout the Waldstadion. It was a signal of the tussle that would take place on the pitch, as Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayern each walked away with a hard-earned point having played out a goalless draw.
The far more interesting story though was taking place in the stands, where a record-breaking Bundesliga crowd of 23,200 spent most of the match creating a party atmosphere. "It was a fantastic experience," Frankfurt captain Tanja Pawollek told the post-match press conference. "You could tell that we needed a bit of time to get into the game."
"The attendance record is a great thing for women’s football. Hopefully it turns out to be the next step, and people start to really enjoy the women’s Bundesliga." Only 90 minutes before the start of the match, gray skies had engulfed Frankfurt as hordes of fans trudged through torrential rain towards the stadium that usually hosts Eintracht Frankfurt's men's side. By the time the match kicked-off, with plenty of fans still streaming through the turnstiles and into their seats, the clouds had fittingly cleared with the sun adorning Deutsche Bahn Park as the two sets of players readied themselves.
"We were very happy to play in front of so many fans," Frankfurt forward Laura Freigang said. "The setting inspired us." It was a unique experience for most of the players who were trying to focus on what was happening on the pitch rather than in the stands.
Record on the back of successful Euros
While both teams were peppered with international stars, including from Germany and England, who had played in front 87,192 spectators in the Euro 2022 final at Wembley on July 31, there were also a number of younger, less experienced players donning Frankfurt and Munich shirts on Friday evening. Last season only Eintracht Frankfurt and Turbine Potsdam had an average Bundesliga attendance of over 1,000 and the two best financially-backed sides Wolfsburg and Bayern averaged approximately 750.
And, Germany and Frankfurt defensive midfielder Sara Doorsoun believes the players can perform at a higher standard if they are afforded bigger stages. "The fans created a brilliant atmosphere," she added. "Which is great for women’s football in Germany."
More games held at big stadiums
"If you give us the stage, advertise it properly, and provide the structures to put on events like that, that sort of thing will be possible more often. We played nice, aggressive football, we were good in our tackling and pressed well. It was cool how the emotion on the pitch transferred over to the fans." It is already clear that this season the Bundesliga season opener will not be a one-off in the magnitude of where matches will be played. Holders Wolfsburg announced that their home clash against Bayern Munich at the end of October will be played at the Wolkswagen Arena – where the men's side play their matches.
Investment key for game's future
While the appetite and respect for women's football is finally reaching the levels those involved in the game have long desired, there remains a gulf on the pitch. Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich have traded the Bundesliga title between themselves over the last eight years, with the financial backing of the two sides allowing them not only to remunerate their players better but also provide other advantages such as better training facilities. In order for the Bundesliga as a whole to take the next step towards growth and to truly match the increased interest in the game, serious investment is key.
Frankfurt happy with draw
On Friday though, despite the perceived distance between the sides, Frankfurt were buoyed by their home crowd support and more than held their own. "You don't go into a game against Bayern and expect to have more of the ball," Freigang explained. "We did just that. We could have come closer to goal in some situations, but we did well and we're happy with the point." And, Doorsoun was equally pleased with her team's efforts, adding: "We’d have taken a point ahead of kick off but, given how it went, three points would have been well deserved."
In years to come, the 0-0 scoreline will fail to tell the true story of the evening, a match that showed the appetite for women's football has been fully realized. Now it is a question of whether the league is fully ready to match the desire.
SOURCE: Deutsche Welle