I attended the Champions League final tonight – the one you probably don’t know about. Lyon beat Frankfurt, 2-0, in the 2012 edition of the Women’s Champions League final at the old Olympic grounds. It was Lyon’s second straight title.
While you might turn up your nose at the idea of seeing a women’s club match (as some of my fellow ink-stained wretches did when I mentioned it to them this morning) 50,212 people shared my idea, and turned out at the Olympiastadion tonight to see the game. I am told it is the biggest crowd ever to see a women’s Champions League final.
Before you ask, yes, it was a “real” soccer crowd, with chanting fans, flares and even a respectable ultras section. I admit the sign of color-wearing toughs showing up to support the game amused me to no end. This was not a collection of little kids with their parents on a day out. It was a good, old-fashioned, scarf-waving, beer-chugging, song-singing standing crowd.
But it was fun, and while Frankfurt was saved an embarrassing goal difference largely by a heroic performance in the net from Desiree Schumann, there are plenty of teams out there who have ridden defense in Champions League games. (Chelsea is one of them.)
Unfortunately for the largely pro-German and overwhelmingly pro-Bayern crowd (unable to confine their fandom to only one event, perhaps), the Frankfurters gave them little to cheer about. Lyon went up early off a well-taken penalty kick by Eugenie Sommer. They doubled their lead when Schumann made a rare blunder, allowing a well-chipped half-volley by Camille Abily to sail into the open net. It was a fine goal, Lyon was the better team all night long, and that’s all she wrote.
My partner, perhaps suffering my idea of a birthday gift, wondered if the women’s game could ever become a game for the workingman, and it’s not a far-fetched idea. Tickets are cheap ($13 for the most expensive as opposed to about $500 for Saturday’s game) beer is plentiful and even when the home team stinks, that many folks can really get a good wave going.
In fact, the only people who didn’t look like they enjoyed the atmosphere were the players – they looked very nervous in front of the wall of people, and every cheer and yell looked as it if it was causing some of them physical pain.
That’s partly because the women usually play to pitiful, invisible crowds. This isn’t entirely fair – both teams boasted a number of national team players including the magnetic Louisa Necib, who lit up the Women’s World Cup – but life hasn’t been kind to the women’s game. And even though the level of play isn’t that of the Premiership, Lyon wasn’t half bad. Still, the future of the sport is not feminine.
That’s OK. One-off nights like Thursday are great. After all, there was a soccer game, fifty thousand screaming fans and a lot of fun. Isn’t that all you can ask?
12: The number of months Glasgow Rangers have been banned from the transfer market. The Scottish club failed in its appeal.
6: The number — in billions of dollars — Arsenal’s part owner Alisher Usmanov is said to be reaping from the initial IPO of Facebook.
2: The number of titles in a row Lyon’s women have now picked up in the UEFA Women’s Champions league.
0: The number of shops open in Munich today. Happy Father’s Day to our German friends!