A match that anticipates the future of football?

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In Europe there are two places in particular that have so far been the driving force for the women’s football movement at high levels. Lyon first and then Barcelona gave a preview of what football – all football – could be like in the next few years, managing to create the same enthusiasm around their women’s teams and at times the same following as the men’s ones.

They did it by investing heavily in it and putting them on the same level, with increasingly evident results. Lyon, which on the intuition of its president began to do so before many others, thanks also to the deep-rooted tradition of French women’s football, is considered the first great women’s team on an international level. Barcelona arrived later, but relying on the means and popularity of one of the most famous clubs in the world, they grew rapidly in a few years, as Nigerian midfielder Asisat Oshoala recently said: “We have many fans at the stadium, we sell more jerseys and we have more viewers on television. Women’s football is the future and we should all get used to it ».

Saturday night, at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, these two teams will meet in the Champions League final, which inevitably is one of the most anticipated in the history of a tournament that has been held for twenty years. In the Juventus stadium there will be over 30 thousand spectators, but there are still tickets on sale: if in the end there will be more than 39,027 it will become the women’s match with the most spectators ever played in Italy.

The 91,648 Camp Nou spectators for Barcelona-Wolfsburg (David Ramos / Getty Images)

Lyon and Barcelona shared the last six Champions League titles. The first five of these, however, were won by Lyon. Considering also the 14 French championships won consecutively from 2007 to 2020, that of Lyon has been one of the most overwhelming dominations in professional sport in recent years.

The story of these successes was born from the foresight of the president and owner Jean-Michel Aulas, who at the beginning of the 2000s, after having brought the men’s team from mediocrity to first place in France, had the intuition to “absorb” the women’s team of the place, anticipating many other great European clubs by at least a decade.

Lyon players have always used the same facilities as the boys, from the training grounds to the new 60,000-seat stadium for the biggest matches. Both teams represent the city in the same way, travel by the same means and are paid equally: all things not at all obvious.

After moving to Lyon from Manchester, Briton Lucy Bronze said: ‘The first time I played them I thought they were on a whole other level. The big stadium, a huge audience, very strong players. That’s why we can’t say no to him. ” The most important players of the French national team played and still play in Lyon, but also the three most famous American players – Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan – and the first ever women’s Ballon d’Or, the Norwegian Ada Hegerberg.

Damaris Egurrola and Daniëlle van de Donk this season with Lyon (Gunnar Hoffsten / Getty Images)

In the 2018 Champions League final, Lyon met Barcelona, ​​which they overcame without many problems by winning 4-1. Saturday’s final will in all likelihood be much more competitive, as Barcelona have in the meantime reached more or less the same level as the French. The Catalan team, for which the last Ballon d’Or Alexia Putellas plays, has just concluded a perfect season in Spain, winning all thirty league games played.

In addition to the results, the team has made headlines for the following it has attracted. In mid-April 91,648 people went to Camp Nou to see women’s Barcelona beat Wolfsburg 5-1 in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals. That day the new crowd record for a women’s match was set, as the 91,553 that less than a month earlier, also in Barcelona, ​​had gone to see their team eliminate Real Madrid.

Women’s Barcelona normally don’t play at Camp Nou and don’t even attract that much crowd. The two games against Wolfsburg and Real Madrid had been preceded by lengthy promotional campaigns and tickets had gone on sale months earlier. But the fans have responded en masse, twice, and the impression is that they will continue to do so whenever there is an opportunity.

This season, Barcelona more than Lyon has perhaps seen the anticipation of one of the biggest changes coming to the world of football. There the women are winning all they can, while the men continue to be in great trouble. In a season that was therefore bad for one team, the Barcelona fans were able to see another win, with the same enthusiasm and the same participation.

Camp Nou crowd for women’s Barcelona (David Ramos / Getty Images)

For some years now, women’s teams have also managed to attract more and more crowds in other European cities. Before the pandemic it happened in Lyon, it happened in Madrid, where in March 2019 60,739 went to see Atletico play, and a few weeks ago it also happened in Paris, where 40,000 went to see PSG in the Champions League . Last weekend, however, the 49,094 Wembley spectators for the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester City set a new record for the competition.

In Italy those levels have not yet been reached, but only because we started later and there have been fewer opportunities. Before the pandemic interrupted the momentum given by the 2019 World Cup, the numbers were growing rapidly, as demonstrated by the 39,027 spectators of Juventus-Fiorentina in 2019, the current public record in Italy.

Now that the restrictions have been lifted, there will be plenty of opportunities to pick up there right away. In July the national team will play the European Championships in England, where they can hope to play it all the way, and in September they will be able to qualify for the 2023 World Cup. they will be professional athletes, the footballers.

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The women’s Champions League final can be seen both on Dazn’s online platform, available by subscription, and in plain text on her YouTube channel, where this season she has broadcast all 61 matches of the tournament, from the group stage to the final.

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