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Sports

A Woman's Place Is in the Stadium

Soccer games have always been a predominantly male bastion in Germany. Now though, ever more women are making their way to the stadiums.

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Who said only men like soccer?

While soccer is still a haven of beer-swigging machos, who chant songs meant to praise their team and antagonize the opponents, the stadiums are beginning to become more attractive to the "fairer" sex.

"More and more women come along on our trips," said Petra Vieten. She and her husband operate a tour company that takes customers to top soccer matches in Germany and abroad. "The women view the whole thing more as an event or a mini-vacation. It isn't just the match that is exciting, but also touring a new city and the like."

The number of women attending Bundesliga matches has been rising steadily. Just over a fifth of the spectators who attend first-division matches are female. In some cities there are even more.

Part of the reason for the rising popularity amongst women appears to be the modern grounds that are now the norm in the country's top-flight clubs. They aren't simply stadiums with primitive facilities. They are now called arenas and they have all the trappings: catering service for those whose pockets are well-lined; roofs to keep dry in bad weather; more seating rather than standing-room-only sections.

Eröffnung der Bundesligasaison 2002/2003, AOL-Arena

Everyone stays dry in Hamburg's AOL Arena


"Soccer matches now just have a better atmosphere than before," said Katja Kraus from Hamburger SV, who is the only female member of the board of directors at a German first-division soccer club.

The AOL Arena, completed in 2000, is a great help when it comes to atmosphere. It is enclosed and has much more charm than the previous Volksparkstadion, which was never very popular, not even with Hamburg fans.

The northern German club has noticed an increase in match attendance from 10 percent in the recent past to twice that now. Kraus, a former German national player, said that security in and around the grounds is greater than it ever has been and the seats are more comfortable.

Dark alleys to the grounds

Better security is a fact that many people, both male and female, would confirm. Some older stadiums were tucked away in areas where many women wouldn't voluntarily go, such as Frankfurt's Waldstadion, which, as its name suggests, is in a forest.

"You used to have to go down a fairly narrow, dark path to get to the grounds. In front of the stadium it was crowded and a little creepy," said Christine, a soccer fan in her mid-50s.

The Waldstadion was renovated and renamed the Commerzbank Arena, and the area around the stadium was cleared and better lit, making it a great improvement over its predecessor.

The route to Berlin's Olympic Stadium has also been dramatically improved. A new train station and a well-lit path have cut the walk to the historic grounds to less than five minutes. Earlier, fans had to reckon on a good 15-minute walk from a subway station through a residential neighborhood to get there.

Fußball-WM 2006 Spielort Leipzig Zentralstadion

Safety in and around stadiums is also important

In the run-up to the World Cup, when hundreds of thousands of people will stream into the 12 stadiums, organizers and cities have made every attempt to make the grounds and the access to them uncomplicated, safe and easily patrolled. Their efforts make the venues more attractive for visitors who come to watch a good soccer match.

The World Cup is inescapable

Germans are being bombarded with advertising and talk about the month-long competition. Everyone, be it the world soccer governing body, FIFA, or World Cup sponsors or just plain businesses, wants to profit from this year's largest sporting event. Nobody should feel left out -- certainly not the half of the population that is female.

Since January, the women's magazine Brigitte has been introducing the world's best players in each issue. Adult education centers have been offering courses for those who want to learn soccer basics.

All these things contribute to the upward trend of women watching the "beautiful game" -- whether the World Cup or the Bundesliga.

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