The host cities for the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany were unveiled Tuesday. Though the women’s national team is already a success, the German FA hopes the event will bolster the struggling women’s club game.
Can Chancellor Merkel's support change the flagging fortunes of women's club soccer?
Germany's soccer elite, along with Chancellor Angela Merkel and FIFA President Sepp Blatter, gathered on Tuesday, Sept 30 in Berlin to announce the host cities for the 2011 Women's World Cup.
The nine cities are Berlin, Frankfurt, Moenchengladbach, Bochum, Dresden, Leverkusen, Augsburg, Sinsheim and Wolfsburg.
There was criticism from the eastern German city of Magdeburg, which along with Bielefeld, was one of two cities to see its bid discarded.
"I am disappointed," Magdeburg mayor Lutz Truemper said in a radio interview. "You can work as hard as you like, but you don't have any chance of being noticed in the east."
However the German Football Association DFB defended the choice of venues, saying not only was the eastern part of the country represented by Dresden but that the stadium in Magdeburg would have needed an investment of three million euros alone for temporary media facilities.
"Of course it's hard on two cities, but we had to take account of so many factors. In any case it is progress on the World Cups of past years," Zwanziger said.
The 2011 Women’s World Cup, with nine venues, will be a much larger logistical undertaking than any mounted before. The 2007 World Cup in China saw five venues, while the 2003 tournament in the United States was played in six cities.
A major reason for ramping up the scale of the event was Germany’s successful hosting of the 2006 men’s World Cup. That Germans turned out in large numbers for public viewing during Euro 2008 in neighboring Switzerland and Austria also gave the impression that the public’s appetite for soccer tournaments is nearly insatiable.
Germany's women's national team has snapped up one title after the other in recent years
Also playing a role in high hopes for 2011, is German dominance on the pitch. Since Germany fielded its first women’s national side in 1982, the team’s record has been one of rousing success: Two world cups, six European championships, and three Olympic bronze medals.
In the current FIFA world rankings, Germany is number two, behind just the United States.
Women’s soccer at the grassroots level is healthy as well. The DFB has more than one million female members, of whom nearly 700,000 are regular players.
But alongside all these positives is a major weak point: Germany’s women’s club game.
Women's club game fails to excite
The German national team wins matches, gets decent television ratings, and fills medium-sized stadiums, but the German women’s club game fails to inspire the same reaction. The average women’s Bundesliga match draws just 885 fans.
The fact that the German club game struggles despite one of women’s soccer’s biggest stars, three-time world footballer of the year Birgit Prinz, playing in the league (for champions 1. FFC Frankfurt) has some thinking that the public doesn’t respond to stars.
Former German national team player Steffi Jones believes, however, that the league just needs more of them.
Steffi Jones, left, see here with Chancellor Merkel, says club soccer needs big names
“Women’s football hasn’t had enough big personalities,” she said. “We need to generate them.”
Another idea to pique interest in the club game is to raise the profile of the clubs themselves.
The women’s Bundesliga’s traditional top teams include 1. FFC Frankfurt, FCR Duisburg and Turbine Potsdam. These are not exactly household names in Germany or anywhere else.
But also up in the women’s league’s top tier is FC Bayern Munich, a perennial power in men’s club soccer. And the women’s squads of familiar clubs like Hamburger SV and VfL Wolfsburg are beginning to put a dent in the top division as well.
If these already well-known clubs devoted more of their ample incomes to the women’s game, some say, attendance figures might just go up.