Turbine Potsdam were hoping to begin their league restart with a brave showing against heavily-favored Bayern Munich and add to the single point they had accrued in their 10 first games. Instead, they didn't play at all.
The match was called off just over an hour before kick off because the pitch was frozen solid - delaying Turbine's great escape, Bayern's great chase of Wolfsburg. The game will now be played on February 25. Questions remain about just how much progress the Women's Bundesliga has made in recent years.
While under-soil heating is required for licensing in the top three tiers of men's football in Germany, it is not a requirement for Women's Bundesliga sides.
Nevertheless, most of the Bundesliga's 12 teams play in grounds with under-soil heating. For a cash-strapped club like Turbine Potsdam, one of just two all-women clubs in the league without the resources of a men's team to rely on, it is currently an unthinkable luxury.
Despite efforts to professionalize the league and its structures, the reality for Germany's women's top-flight remains a far cry from that of even lower men's divisions.
This means that the occaisional cancelled match is unavoidable. As German FA regulations state, referees have the final call in cancelling a match if they think player safety can be at risk - as was the case in Potsdam. Referees don't always err on the side of caution, and a decision to play a 2021 match amidst thrashing snow in Wolfsburg drew criticism from players and coaches.
The call not to play on a rock-hard pitch was the right one. Waiting until barely an hour before kickoff to make that decision was less understandable. While men's side Babelsberg 03 played in the same stadium the prior afternoon without incident, the pitch froze over night, giving the league plenty of time to make a decision the morning of Turbine's match. Instead, a lack of transparency and urgency led to an unnecessarily last-minute call.
Taking things in stride
However, many of the hundreds of fans that streamed into Potsdam's "Karl Liebknecht Stadion" seemed unphased by the decision. Many had decided that a trip to the ground still warranted a mulled wine or bratwurst, even if there wouldn't be football.
"These things happen" was a common refrain among Turbine fans, for whom a cancelled game was just the latest in a long list of things that have gone wrong this season. A supporter who made the roughly 100 kilometer journey from Cottbus with his family quipped to DW that, "at least Potsdam didn't lose today!"
Turbine assistant coach Dirk Heinrichs, in charge as the club look for a new head coach, took a similarly-relaxed approach to the postponement. "In Potsdam, it's always a challenge to get games played at the Karl Liebknecht Stadion this time of year. But we need to live with that. We're already preparing for our next match on Friday and hope we’ll have good weather," he told DW.
Bayern Munich, with fitter financials and a title race to keep alive, were a lot less amused. "The game was going to be really important for us to keep up the pressure [on Wolfsburg]. It’s extremely frustrating and truly bitter," the club's Sporting Director Bianca Rech told broadcaster "Magenta Sport" after the decision.
"We were in discussions with the German FA because we knew this could be an issue. We even asked if we could swap home fixtures. But nothing came of it. That could have gone a lot better," Rech continued, adding especially at a time "when we're talking about wanting to make the league more professional."
Outcry in England, indifference in Germany
The German FA published a report in early February about the progress made by the Women's Bundesliga in the last year. It revealed a rising cost of the game, with a total expenditure of almost three million euros per club, an increase of more than 50% compared with the 2017/2018 season. These rising costs mean that clubs not connected to a men's team, such as Turbine Potsdam and Essen, are struggling to keep up financially.
There has been no comment from the league or the FA on the match's late cancellation. Outside of frustration among Bayern players and staff - and certainly any fans that made the trip, the most common response has been shrugging resignation. When similar weather in England saw a Women's Super League (WSL) match between Chelsea and Liverpool called off after six minutes played in January, there was widespread uproar.
Chelsea coach Emma Hayes told Sky Sports afterwards: "The WSL is the same level as the Premier League - just because we're women, it doesn't mean we shouldn't be afforded the same access."
Wolfsburg's star striker Ewa Pajor recently told DW that she thinks the Bundesliga is the "best league in the world." For that opinion to be more common, the league will need not only to improve its infrastructure, but to take itself, its clubs, and its fans more seriously.
Edited by: Jonathan Harding