So it has begun… Preseason, what we all athletes love oh so much. But yet again, we all do know that it is absolutely necessary if we want to reach our goals for the season and become the best we can be.
The last five weeks have therefore been not much more than eat sleep and training as we prepare our bodies both physically and mentally for what is ahead of us. At the same time, it is an exciting phase for our team and club. As I mentioned in my last blog, we have undergone a fairly large reshaping of the group this new season with a lot of new faces, both on and off the field. It will be a shift we all hope will make us overall better but can then again take some time and patience as we learn about each other and how we best work together.
With a total of 10 field players that had left, we welcomed 8 new ones and probably made our team even more international than it was before. The new additions include two Germans, one American, one Austrian, one Hollander, one Finnish, one Japanese and one Swiss. We have stayed true to our standards though so far and have kept the German language as our one and only language of choice. Of course, there are times when English and even still Italian are incorporated into our trainings/games and functions but only in exceptions to help some individuals understand or to add a bit of humor to the group 😉
With travelling during our summer break and with the start of preseason, time has been limited for me so I apologize for the delay of this post. Stated in my last entry, I would like to continue sharing my experiences of the women’s game on a world wide scale. After talking a lot about Germany, I will now touch on Norway and Italy and their developments in women’s soccer over the last years. Thanks to Nora and Raffa (in photo, right) who have kindly shared their thoughts on their respective countries.
In Norway, women’s soccer receives less attention and support compared to the women in Germany. It is just not seen as an attractive sport but however has still seen some positive developments over the last few years.
Norwegian women’s soccer is fairly physical like in Germany but opt to play more of a direct style of play with less ball possession. A lot of focus is placed on tactics and teamwork both with and without the ball, especially in the defense work. The speed of play has improved over the years possibly due to the fact that most teams train daily and play on turf fields which naturally then increases the tempo of the game. The aspect of strength has also taken a boost of interest in recent years helping generate more well-rounded athletes on the pitch. Additionally, younger players are being incorporated more into the teams both within the league as well as at the national level thus developing them earlier and creating a more technical and competitive environment within the teams. As a result, women’s soccer has overall enhanced throughout the years.
Even though the women’s national team is more successful than the men’s side, the women are unfortunately still seen as less popular than the men. Interest among the women’s national team does however trump the interest of the women’s professional league.
Within the Toppserien, the Norwegian women’s professional league, teams are financially independent from a men’s side and therefore have limited resources and unable to provide a full professional environment within the clubs. In recent years however two teams have become somewhat connected with a men’s team using the men’s name but are still considered separate when it comes to finances and resources. As a result, this creates a struggle to gain and maintain support among local fans. Because of the lack of finances, the league depends a lot on volunteer work but can then however positively bring a lot more passion and love to the game of soccer. Within the last years there have been advancements among the clubs both in the financial sector and the quality of players which has allowed them to gradually build their programs as local fans slowly start to embrace women’s soccer.
Most national team players are part of one of the teams in Oslo (5 teams) because of the resources available to them for national team commitments. There are opportunities of training with the national team during their club team’s season which is positively affecting the quality of the national team as more girls are able to train more often with each other throughout the week. Alongside that positive aspect comes a small undesirable fact that most national team girls then join those Oslo teams creating an imbalance in quality among the rest of the clubs. The league however has still become more balanced the last years but still have roughly 4 from the 12 teams who seem to consistently dominate over the years. There has been a slow increase in interest among foreign players but due to lack of quality and finances, the Norwegian league is just not so attractive at the international level. Several Norwegian national team players have also opted to play internationally in another country.
Within Norway, there is a strong desire to have girls developed even earlier in life and rewarded earlier in their talents and accomplishments. However, because of possible social and cultural ways and of the system setup of team sports as a whole, the sports federation places more emphasis on equality of all sports teams verses focusing on individual sports and helping them stand out verses others. Though that is a very positive democratic thing, it can indirectly affect those individuals or teams that are very talented and inhibit them to progress even more due to balanced dispersal of resources and support.
Because of the improvements of the sport mentioned, women’s soccer is slowly increasing in popularity and also even gaining support from local television stations as they broadcast games now and again. More people then are able to experience women’s soccer and see that it is just not so bad after all.
In Italy, women’s soccer is unfortunately a bit slower in its developments compared to Germany and Norway. It receives even less attention and support but still has had some advancements within the last years.
Italian women’s soccer is considered technical but not very physical and the tempo of game a tick slower compared to Germany and Norway. Because of the culture, women’s soccer seems to generate a lot less consideration compared to men’s soccer and is unfortunately not popular at all among local sport fans.
The women’s national team receives a minuscule amount of media coverage, only having one station for the important games, ex. FIFA games. The fairly new coach, Antonio Cabrini, coming to the women’s team in 2012 and bringing his previous experiences of playing for the men’s national team and winning the World Cup in ’82, has since then positively benefited the women’s side and attracted more interest at the national level. The women though have yet to build on their side, at the moment only managing a U17, U19, and A team at the national level. Possible reasons may be because the men are still more of an importance than women or also that it can be tough and even seldom for a female to play longer than 19 years of age.
Women’s soccer was famous in the 1980s and 1990s when the national team had a lot of success at the international level. However after those times other countries began to surpass Italy and invest more time and money in building their programs, both at the national and international level. Italy unfortunately took a slower route and is still looking to build their country’s success of the sport.
Within the Femminile Serie A, the Italian women’s professional league, the teams are also financially independent from the men’s teams. A slow progress of support from the men’s side is however developing as the men’s Florence team, for example, began a partnership with the female side this summer in hopes of building more of a foundation in the club. If that is a success then the prospects of more men’s teams supporting the women’s counterparts will possibly filter throughout the league.
There is a fairly large difference in the table with the top 3 or 4 teams being the most dominant. Most of the Italian national team girls are spread out among the top clubs which naturally then creates an imbalance of quality in the league. Because of the small of amount of interest received, there is also a low supply of finances to support the women and therefore affecting the quality of coaches, trainings, and amount of foreigners who opt to play in Italy. There has been a small increase of foreign players in the league but only among the top teams. Several of the national team girls have opted out of their own league and play in Germany where they believe the level of play is more attractive and advantageous to their desires.
A possible reason for this low amount of attention in women’s soccer can be a fact that not many young girls play soccer in Italy. There are roughly only 20,000 girls who participate in club soccer compared to almost 1.2000,000 girls in Germany. Most young girls choose to play other sports and activities like volleyball, tennis, and dancing. There is a strong desire from the Italian soccer federation to change the mentality of women’s soccer in Italy and to incorporate more youth programs for girls. This would be a positive aspect for the women’s game and increase more attraction among the youth. So there is much hope for a boost of interest, respect, and support for women the next years as they continue to improve their programs.
As you can see each country has their own uniquely paced developments of the sport. There is a noticeable overall progress of the women’s game as women continue to advance to a more modern and complete style of training and play. More interest, respect, and support of the game across the world continues to grow as soccer fanatics and sponsors realize that women’s soccer is not at all that bad. Again, as a female soccer player there are naturally certain limitations and demands one will continue to have in comparison to the men’s world but I think I can speak for most women and say that we are still proud to be a part of its growth and are excited to see the developments it will take over the next few years. We look forward as the beauty of the game progresses and takes steps closer to its counterpart men. Maybe one day we may just make it to the same level 🙂
On another note, we were recently in Südtirol for a week long training camp. It was a great opportunity for us to come together as a team, learn more about each other and to train and focus on working towards our goals for this season. We are all excited and looking forward to our first game on August 31.