Women’s soccer in Germany is a big thing. How did it metamorphose into the current state? The authors, Nia Kuenzer and Bernd Schmelzer, chronicle the pivotal moments in the book, Warum Frauen den besseren fussball spielen(Why women play the better soccer). Kuenzer’s take is based as an ex player and TV pundit, while Schmelzer gives a deep dive on the experience garnered from covering women soccer over two decades.
They write from a German prism, but it has a global context. However, to the uninformed, the title could be misleading. The authors claim, given that we do not compare a 100m athletic race between men and women, why do we attempt to do the same in soccer? But the title of the book is comparing both, which makes it a misnomer.
Between 1955 and 1970, the German football association (DFB) banned women soccer in Germany because of fears for feminine well being and morals. Interestingly, since the ban was lifted, women soccer teams in Germany have won many laurels.
Kuenzer, begun her career at SG Praunheim and rose through the ranks before landing at 1. FFC Frankfurt. She’s seen it all from battling with poor amenities at the nascent stages to preferential treatment for men.
Schmelzer, as a male reporter, had to confront the prospects of mounting criticisms from the language police because of his choice of words. He navigated the landmines with expertise and sensitivity- ingredients that lead to excellent reporting.
Women play the game for fun
The hallmarks of watching women soccer is the genuine disposition to playing the sport. They are not interested in simulating an injury to get ahead in a game or deliberately act in an unsportsmanlike manner.
Besides, many of the players believe the game is not the center of their universe. They have a life outside the soccer pitch and just want to get on with the game. At an early age, many players have a dual career plan that eases the pressure on them to “make it”. It is not a do or die affair.
Women stand for what they say and do in terms of sexuality, partnership, life philosophy or coming out, unlike the men. There is no cognitive dissonance.
Women soccer in Germany is the last bastion of not too much commerce. Teeming spectators watch the game every week, especially when the national team performs well.
The drawbacks of women’s soccer
Women players find it difficult, if not impossible, to combine family and career. There is not a tolerant culture for both. Although FIFA has new rules for maternity leave, I hope it will galvanize clubs to create a welcoming environment for would-be mothers.
In managerial positions in Germany, men still call the shots. I bet things will improve if more women are in the boardroom to decide for the welfare of women too.
The book is a good read for those interested in how the women soccer team in Germany continues to be trailblazers. However, their competitive edge is eroding if there is no concerted effort to build on the success of yester years.