1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Women's Bundesliga: Bayern Munich's title reveals problems

Kalika Mehta Munich | Matt Ford earlier
May 28, 2023

Bayern Munich are Bundesliga champions for the fifth time. But the manner of their victory, hitting double figures past Turbine Potsdam to extend theirs and Wolfsburg's dominance, was a damning indictment of the league.

Fußball, Frauen | Bundesliga | Bayern München - Turbine Potsdam | 22. Spieltag
Image: Sven Hoppe/dpa/picture alliance

Bayern Munich's women were crowned German champions for the fifth time in their history after thrashing Turbine Potsdam 11-1 on the final day of the season.

Saki Kumagai, Jovana Damnjanovic and Lea Schüller all netted braces for the Bavarians while Georgia Stanway and Lina Magull were also on the scoresheet before half-time, by which point the score was already 7-0.

Viktoria Schwalm scored a consolation goal for already-relegated Potsdam in the second half, but Bayern eventually increased their tally to 11 – a fitting figure given the presence of the club's men's team at the FC Bayern Campus, fresh from winning their 11th consecutive men's Bundesliga title on Saturday.

The two teams celebrated their double triumph together on Marienplatz in Munich city center after the game but, for all the joy and smiling faces, the dismantling of Potsdam – one of the traditional giants of the women's game – was a damning indictment of the Frauen-Bundesliga, where the gulf between Bayern, Wolfsburg and the rest continues to grow.

The two have won the last 11 Bundesliga titles between them – that number again – generally leaving the rest of the league scrapping for the one remaining Champions League spot in third, or battling against relegation.

Strauss: Bundesliga top half is 'very competitive'

Nevertheless, despite witnessing his side dismantle their opposition, Bayern head coach Alexander Strauss dismissed the idea that the Bundesliga title race is a closed shop.

"I think the top-half of the league is very competitive," he said after lifting the trophy. "Frankfurt are constantly underestimated in where they are and they will be really difficult to play next season.

"Hoffenheim had some problems at the start but they're playing really well now. When we drew against Leverkusen last week, I felt they had a really good set up."

There was a certain irony to the clubs Strauss named as potential challengers. Eintracht Frankfurt, who finished third, swallowed up FFC Frankfurt in 2019 to enable the former Women's Bundesliga joint record title holders to compete, while the others are also backed by men's teams – and, in the case of Wolfsburg and Leverkusen, men's teams exempt from the 50+1 rule – yet still can't compete in the Frauen-Bundesliga.

"It's the same in all leagues around the world," insisted Strauss. "There will always be a big margin in the playing levels between the teams in the lower half of the league and the top teams because there are not enough players."

Hoffenheim's Kossler: 'In terms of professionalism, it's half and half'

But it's not just a question of quantity of players; it's quality too. And that's linked to the quality of the infrastructure and facilities, which are still all too often below par in the women's game in Germany.

Frankfurt's women, for example, despite now being part of an established men's Bundesliga club and even drawing with Bayern in the season curtain-raiser at the 51,000-capacity Waldstadion, were still training on public pitches for the first half of the season until a deal was eventually reached to allow them to share pitches with Eintracht’s men’s reserves.

"In terms of professionalism, it's half and half," Hoffenheim striker Melissa Kossler told DW recently. "We have some very young players here who are still finishing school, and we also have three teachers in our team. Which is crazy if you think about the amount of effort you have to put into both jobs at the same time.

"The training ground and the facilities are good and you feel that the club keep wanting to improve, especially the women's side of the club. Still, they speak a lot about improving things, but it takes much longer for that to become a reality."

And that's at a club which has been bankrolled by German software billionaire Dietmar Hopp for over 20 years – to much criticism in the men's game.

In fact, Hopp recently announced he would be relinquishing his majority stake in Hoffenheim and returning control to the members, although the effect that would have on his financial support is unclear. Hoffenheim have been aiming to become more self-sufficient in recent years, but the men’s team flirted with relegation this season. Should that ever come to pass, the funding for the women's team would likely also be affected.

Paulina Krumbiegel on the ball for Hoffenheim, surrounded by three Leverkusen defenders
Even with their financial backing, Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen can't competeImage: Oliver Zimmermann/foto2press/IMAGO

'We can't challenge for first place'

For Kossler and her teammates, who finished fourth, six points behind Frankfurt and eleven behind Bayern, challenging for the title was not even a consideration.

"For us right now, it's always the goal to finish in third place," she admitted. "We know that is a chance for us to qualify for the Champions League but it's quite a bit further to aim for first.

"We showed this season we can steal points from Wolfsburg and that's really always the goal of the season - to steal points from the big teams. It's disappointing for that to be the goal, every sportsperson always wants to win trophies, but right now we have to accept we can't challenge for first place and we have to keep focusing on other goals.

"Money is always a problem. Not just for the players themselves but the facilities, the physiotherapists, it's all worth money and you need it."

While Bayern have the money to attract top European talents such as England midfielder Stanway, who has proven pivotal to Bayern's campaign since arriving last summer, the likes of Turbine Potsdam simply cannot compete.

Bayern's Saki Kumagai runs past Potsdam's Adrijana Mori in celebration
Bayern Munich are on a different planet to Turbine PotsdamImage: Sven Hoppe/dpa/picture alliance

Turbine Potsdam: victims or stuck in the past?

The sight of Potsdam, the six-time Bundesliga champions already relegated after 26 years in the top flight, capitulating in the manner they did on the final matchday only served to underline the decline of Germany’s once great women's teams.

Kossler grew up in Potsdam, was part of Turbine's youth set-up and saw their successes up close, before breaking into the team in 2020 and joining Hoffenheim in 2022.

But, while she acknowledges money has bred success for the teams who aligned with their much richer men's sides, she also believes Potsdam failed to evolve as side.

"Potsdam are such a historical and traditional club but that is also their problem," she explained. "They always hold on to the old memories and old way of playing football and they didn't keep up with the times."

Those modern times are littered with problems. Too many teams still consist of non-professional players training in non-professional facilities, while even teams which have merged with wealthier men's outfits or which benefit from private backing admit they can’t compete with Bayern and Wolfsburg, whose domination of the league look sets to continue.

That might make for pleasant double celebrations on Munich’s Marienplatz, but it’s bad news for women's football in Germany.

Edited by Matt Ford