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FC Bayern: “It was a great year for women’s football”

Sweeeeeet Caroliiiine – what else! Everyone could agree on this song during this last Munich women’s football evening of the year: the players of FC Bayern, who made a last lap of honor after the final whistle. The new Bavarian Georgia Stanway of Blackburn in any case, it is the soundtrack of the European Championships which were so successful last summer in England. And sure enough, the singing spectators, after all, in 1840 they had once again slid to a largely meaningless Champions League game on the dewy snow to the campus stadium.

“Road to Eindhoven” was written there on a banner. Eindhoven will host the next Champions League final in early June. However, Wednesday’s game against Benfica Lisbon was a rather insignificant panel there. Bayern were already in the quarter-finals and when group opponents FC Barcelona, ​​who were playing at the same time, took an early lead against outsiders Rosengard, it was clear that winning the group would no longer be possible.

“Honestly, we weren’t quite up to it today,” admitted coach Alexander Straus, “there was nothing we could play for.” This made him all the happier that the team had shown the will to always want to win. Klara Bühl scored the two goals in a rather flattering 2-0 (51′, 75′), Benfica could have obtained a penalty and also had a few good chances.

At the final whistle, Straus took another deep breath. It’s done, closing time. “Now” – his last analysis approaching midnight – “is about to be a vacation.” The last few months have been the most difficult of his coaching career. It was obvious from the players on the pitch that they felt the same way. “We all love playing football, there’s no doubt about it. There have been great games this year. But the last few weeks have also shown that the body needs a break,” said double goalscorer Bühl.

Many players are now regularly recognized on the street

What had they not experienced in 2022? They came out of a pandemic year with few spectators, and suddenly the stadiums filled up again – even though they were bigger. Last March, Bayern players played a Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain in the Fröttmaninger Arena. The European Championship was the sporting highlight, and national players flew to the United States for international matches. Many of them are now regularly recognized on the street.

“It’s definitely been a really big year for women’s football,” said Sarah Zadrazil, who took over as captain on Wednesday. Lina Magull had taken time off before the break due to knee issues. “EM has also been such a big hit here in Germany, I’m glad it lasted,” added Austrian Zadrazil, it also makes her “a bit proud” that so many spectators come now. And she thinks the interest will continue. There are reports that at least two games for Bayern players could take place at the Allianz Arena in the spring alone: ​​the Bundesliga home game against VfL Wolfsburg and the Champions League quarter-finals. Although it won’t be shot until Christmas, only strong opponents would be waiting anyway, Zadrazil said.

In the opinion of coach Straus, the development has accelerated again. He himself was only a women’s coach for four years, before that the 47-year-old Norwegian coached men for eight years. “We’ve made tremendous progress since 2018 alone,” he says. The pace has increased enormously, “they are all top athletes now, and that’s why people now have a different view of things”. The club also have a ‘really exciting squad’ where they still see potential for development. Since his arrival this summer, there has only been a week of preparation, “I knew that everything would not start right away”, explains Straus. But the reason for the short preparation time is precisely this: professional life. This has other indirect consequences, such as the fact that there are now a lot of injured players. The most important protagonists of women’s football are in a phase of rapid adjustment.

Bayern captain Magull said in a podcast in 2020 that it annoys her that women’s football is constantly compared to men’s football, in terms of speed, for example. As has already happened in other sports, women’s football must be seen as a separate discipline: as an original attraction. Judging by viewership, it seems to have been a hit in many places.

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