How Spain has become a leading power in women's football | Football News - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

How Spain has become a leading power in women's football

Oct 11, 2022 10:50 PM IST

Their under-17 coach, Kenio Gonzalo, says the seeds for success were sowed 15 years back.

A decade ago, Spain weren’t bracketed among the elite in women’s football. But investment in the game at the grassroots level and treating it on par with the men’s game has led to a rapid rise in their standards.

Last season’s Champions League semi-final match against Wolfsburg was watched by record 91,648 fans at Camp Nou(REUTERS)
Last season’s Champions League semi-final match against Wolfsburg was watched by record 91,648 fans at Camp Nou(REUTERS)

Barcelona is now one of the top women’s clubs in the world. They made it to three Women’s Champions League finals in the last four seasons, winning one in 2021-22. Last season’s semi-final match against Wolfsburg was watched by record 91,648 fans at Camp Nou. Around 91,553 had turned up for their quarter-final win over Real Madrid.

The 16-team Liga F turned professional this season and it has also increased their financial might. England’s star midfielder Keira Walsh moved from Manchester City to Barcelona for a record fee of €460,000.

Spain have dominated at every age group level in women's football in the recent past—be it World Cup or European Championship—and are considered a threat when it comes to the senior level as well.

When La Roja kick-off their Under-17 Women’s World Cup campaign against Colombia at the DY Patil Stadium here on Wednesday, they will once again carry the favourites tag. Their under-17 team are the defending champions having beaten Mexico in the 2018 final. They also finished runners-up in 2014 and were third in 2010 and 2016.

This year, their under-17 finished runners-up in the European Championship—losing to Germany on penalties. The under-19 team won the European title by beating Norway 2-1 and under-20 won the World Cup by overcoming Japan 3-1.

Their under-17 coach, Kenio Gonzalo, says the seeds for success were sowed 15 years back. “We have put in place very strong territorial (state) competitions in Spain from where we scout for young talent and make them part of our national system. They then move to clubs (to make sure they have a way forward). It has worked and you can see how many players we are producing.”

He added: “Especially in the last five years, women’s football in Spain has undergone a great transformation. We are giving more opportunities to all the players. If you have all the resources, you produce players and you then get greater visibility for women’s football and that’s what happening,” says Gonzalo.

In August, Spain's football federation announced female players will receive equal pay (as compared to men) for representing the country. Last year, La Masia, Barcelona's famed academy, for the first time since it opened in 1979 started admitting women players. Seeing Barcelona’s rise, Real Madrid have also started investing in women’s football.

Such developments have given young players like current under-17 goalkeeper Sofia Fuente hope of becoming a professional. "I wish to play in front of packed stadiums someday," she said. She is among the six players, who represent Real Madrid ‘B’ team, in the Spain squad. Five players are from Barcelona and four are from Athletic Bilbao.

The senior women’s team first qualified for the World Cup in 2015 but were knocked out in the group stages. Four years later, in 2019, they lost in a closely fought round of 16 match to eventual champions US. In the 2022 European Championship, they ran England, who went on to win the title, close in the quarter-final before losing 2-1 in extra time.

Gonzalo feels as the level improves and the young crop makes it to the senior level, the national team is too not far from standing their ground against the likes of the US, England and Germany.

He feels that if women get the same facilities as men, the standards will rise automatically. “Women’s football doesn’t have such a long history and we have experienced it (across the world). In all countries, there is gender inequality. For women to find space in football, enjoy football, feel at ease while playing and feel rewarded, they have to be given all the resources. If all the necessary means and stadiums can be used for both genders and with visibility, women’s football will be able to grow,” he said.

Coming to the competition, he wants his players to enjoy the World Cup. “A long time has passed since that World Cup (2018 title). In that time, we have worked a lot on the way we understand football in Spain. We feel more confident but it doesn’t mean that we are the favourite team. I just mean that our players are in a very good state of mind, they are fit and focussed. We don’t try to set any goals, we just focus on the process game-by-game, session-by-session.”

Catch every big hit, every wicket with Crickit, a one stop destination for Live Scores, Match Stats, Quizzes, Polls & much more

Catch all the Latest Football matches score updates alongwith EPL 2024 Schedule , ISL 2024 Schedule and other related updates on ISL 2024 Points table on The Hindustan Times website and App
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, July 19, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On