Gina Lewandowski

Maybe you may have already seen that I had recently resigned here with FC Bayern München. It was a very thought out decision since being an American in a foreign country and already being a long time away from home, I naturally had to consider all options.

It however at the same time also seemed to be a fairly easy decision for me. Soccer is a passion of mine and for me, being here allows me to live out my passion to the fullest and to embrace the many positive aspects of being away from home and in another country. Therefore, I can say that I am happy to be staying and to be a part of FC Bayern München for the next few years. I look forward to it, to grow as a player and an individual and to develop with the club.

We just finished up our season last weekend and ended our run in 4th place. It was a hard fought year of its many ups and downs but overall a very positive one for us as we learn more about ourselves and the club and continue to work towards our goals. Every team dreams of making it to the top, of becoming the best they can be. Although I have only been with the club for 2 years, since I have been here, we have also set desires and goals of getting closer to the top. Of course, it is a task that can take time and patience and can involve many different obstacles, hills, and maybe even mountains. But with those challenges come the beauty of the fight to reach those aspirations. The journey also teaches us to hope and to believe in the future, something also required in reaching the top or simply just achieving a goal. Though our season didn’t bring us to number 1, we can say that we came one step closer to where we all would like to envision our club in the near future, closer to the front of the division. All who were involved within the team and club helped us move forward in that direction. For some, we will continue on that path together next season when we see each other again when preseason starts mid-July. But for others, we will part for good or at least for the time being. There is a substantial amount of girls leaving the club, a total of 10 players, all with various reasons. It is the biggest change the team has ever experienced so you can imagine there will be a huge reshaping within the club over the next months as players move on and others join in their place. This transition which can be sad but also positive for all is a part of life that we all encounter at some point. It is the process of change, adjustment, and new adventures that guide each of us on our paths in life to achieve all that we can.

Along with this transition in our club, I have also seen a tremendous about of transformation and growth within the entire Bundesliga over the last 7 years, since I began playing in 2007. I have seen a development in quality within each team and consequently a general increase in competition over the last years. As a result, the overall interest and attraction of women’s soccer has significantly boosted among local and even international soccer fanatics and even among general sport fans.

Women’s soccer, even at a worldwide scale, has been taking more steps closer to its counterpart men’s side. Although the differences are still quite large and unfortunately may likely never reach the same level, you can see the potential women’s soccer has and the respect and support it is gaining and deserves to have.

As I mentioned in my last blog, we here at FC Bayern München are a very international team with almost half being foreigners, whether a full foreigner or some with partial foreign background. I was able to sit down and talk to some of them to get an understanding of the developments of women’s soccer in their own country the last years and the support that is received, both from their country as well as from the men’s teams.

After talking with each of them, there are some general similarities between the countries that allow me to say that there has been an overlying increase of attention on a global scale in the women’s game the last years. There has been an influx of support into the women’s programs, both at the local and international level as well as a boost of support from the male counterpart programs. Another common similarity among the countries is the limitations women still have as a whole, that most women need day time jobs or study part time to help support themselves and create a life outside of soccer. Naturally, there are some exceptions with a few players considered strictly professional for the time being. Another connection they all share is the rise of young talents that are brought up into the league teams and even national teams. More countries are recognizing the need to develop younger girls earlier in life to improve them and help the team progress at an even better and faster rate. Teams are therefore generally getting younger but are positively affected with the inclusion of these young talents.

Though there are many common developments there are still a few differences within each country giving each their own unique story. Each country is on its own individual path of growth which can depend a lot on the local foundation of women’s sports and the resources each country has available. I can obviously speak more about Germany and the Bundesliga because I have been here so long but I will also provide some insight into the countries of Norway and Italy from two of my other teammates. Just for this blog though I will share my experiences with Germany and then share the rest in my next blog.

Like I had mentioned, women’s soccer in Germany has taken huge steps in development, interest, and support over the last years both at the national level as well as the international level.

Women’s soccer in Germany is considered a very technical and ball possession oriented country compared to most other countries. It has progressed even more in the physical and tactical components of the game in the last years and has placed more of a focus on the speed, agility and conditioning aspects of the individual, generating more of an overall player on the field. Functional training in the gym and the speed of play on the field has also advanced making the game much more modern and dynamic.

Because of these advancements, the league has improved in individual talent and consequently made teams overall better and the league more competitive. Even though the top teams still seem to somewhat dominate over the years there is starting to become more than ever a balance within the league where the ‘weaker’ teams are making it much harder for the ‘better’ teams to be successful.

Where technique and understanding of the game was really all that was needed in the past to be successful, there is now an increased value placed on tactics as teams develop and play more of a compact style of the game. As a result, players have less time and space with the ball and are forced to make even faster and smarter decsions on the field. There is also then a demand and importance for players to have an overall dynamic style of play to be able to compete at this ever developing level.

Within the Bundesliga there are some teams who are connected and supported from their men’s side as well as teams who are financially independent from a men’s team. Because the quality of play is increasing within the league, more support is being invested into women’s programs, either from their counterpart men’s side or from local sponsors. Teams are then able to act a bit more professional having more and even better trainings, better resources and in the end developing their players better and quicker. Players are also more able to sustain the intensity and physical demands of the sport. As a result of these positive advancements, there has been an increase in foreigners who find the league attractive and want to be a part of it to expand their own abilities.

Here at FC Bayern München, for example, the women are gaining more interest, recognition, and support from the men’s side as well as from local sport fans. Since this past season we now play all our home games in the Grünwalder Stadium, a big step for us, allowing us to share one of the same resources that the FC Bayern München II team has. Our media department has also developed, bringing the women’s program not only to the rest of Germany but also across the world.

More is also being done at the youth level for children the last years. Extra emphasis is being placed on providing soccer camps for young girls to expose them earlier to the game of soccer. With this introduction it is an opportunity to pass on through the generations the love of the game and create more of an interest among young girls.

Because of the recent progression in women’s soccer, the Bundesliga has taken a strong interest in the media sector. Eurosport recently started this past season to now almost regularly cover games on TV, a huge boost of support for the Women’s Bundesliga. The German Federation, DFB TV, has likewise increased its weekly coverage of games also allowing the game to be reached to people across the country as well as across the globe.

This increased attention of the women’s game is a direct effect of the quality that the Bundesliga has produced the last years. It is also a huge compliment on each of the individual teams and clubs of the Bundesliga and its quality it puts forth. One huge example is the records of attendance the Bundesliga posted this past season. An average of 1,185 fans attended the games of the 12 teams, a 6% increase from the last record in the 2011/2012 season. An astonishing number of 12,464 fans attended the final decisive game of the season between 1. FFC Frankfurt and VfL Wolfsburg, to witness who would be the champion of the Bundesliga. Even just that the last game of the season was the determining match to decide the championship is also a true testament to the intense competition of the table over the entire season. With these records, it’s a tremendous sign of the development of the women’s Bundesliga.

Another positive effect of the developments the last years is the increase in German teams who take part in competition at the international level. Within the last 13 years, a German team has won the UEFA Women’s Cup/ Champions League 8 times, 5 times in the last 7 years, and also 12 teams making it to the finals. This is naturally also a tribute to the quality that Germany and the Bundesliga has been generating and therefore arguably becoming the best league in the world.

The recent Women’s Champions League competition last month with over 10,000 fans present and almost double the fans watching from afar is yet another testament to the general progression of the women’s game. Those who had watched the game could probably also say that the quality of the game was very impressive, a level that all women’s teams desire to be at.

With all that said, you can see that women’s soccer is on the right path. Though there will always be some limitations in the women’s world as well as various challenges and obstacles, we women have high hopes of furthering the game and look ahead to the next developments in the future.

Look forward to my next blog as I add some insights into the progression of the women’s game in Norway and Italy… thanks to my wonderful Norwegian and Italian teammates 🙂

  1. Asa 8 years ago

    Thank you Gina another great blog, enjoyed reading it.

  2. Gina West 8 years ago

    Thank you Gina for another very interesting and informative blog post. Also, congratulations on your commitment to Bayern Munich, it most be tough to be away from home but from reading your blogs I can tell the opportunity is fantastic for you to be able to live your dream as a professional footballer.

    It was really interesting to read about the developments in Germany and the increased support in the country including from the male counterparts. The rewards for this are already being seen both domestically and internationally. The attendances for the Bundesliga have been outstanding and the quality of football is at a high level.

    I look forward to hearing the similarities and differences for your Norwegian and Italian teammates.

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