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Freiburg building and Hegerberg back

Alina Schwermer
March 27, 2022

Freiburg have rarely caught the eye in the Women's Bundesliga, but something is happening in the Black Forest. After a big week of Champions League football, the return of a world class Norwegian is catching the eye.

Freiburg in action against Potsdam
Freiburg have been improving in the Bundesliga of lateImage: Thomas Heß/Eibner/IMAGO

Slow and steady improvement at Freiburg

In recent years, SC Freiburg have become the kind of team whose existence it’s been easy to forget. They’ve been the plodding plough horses of the league, reliably going about their humdrum trade in a solid manner; not much danger of relegation, even less to do with Europe, occasionally see a promising player of coach head to Bayern Munich.

But times are changing. Since the move to the Dreisamstadion, SC regularly attract some of the biggest crowds in the league, partly thanks to the support of ultras from the men’s club; this weekend against Potsdam, saw them draw 1200 fans. Slowly but surely, things are looking up.

Freiburg are busy collecting points at the moment: Victory against Leverkusen and Jena preceeded the 0-0 with Potsdam. In truth, this one wasn’t a game to write home about, but a point against the team in third is not to be sniffed at. Midfielder Riola Xhemaili told DW: "It was a very competitive game. Defensively we played a cracking game, we knew we could beat this team. We are satisfied with our performance. Of course ,we could play with a bit more accuracy, but to get a 0-0 against Potsdam is okay." The recently eternal 7th-placed team had set itself 6th place as its goal for the season. They are currently well on the way to achieving it. Xhemaili added: "We want to keep this 6th place, not let Leverkusen take it."

Now there is also an architect to take the rebuild forward. SC has unveiled Theresa Merk as the successor to outgoing coach Daniel Kraus, who is moving to Wolfsburg's youth team. Merk, 32, who was also once co-coach in Wolfsburg, praised the "good and sustainable work" in Freiburg as well as the move to the Dreisamstadion. She knows what she has at her disposal.

SC Sand let chance slip through fingers

Tough times for SC Sand, after they lost their crunch relegation clash with Werder Bremen 1-0 at home. An own goal by Vicky Bruce in the 15th minute did the damage, leaving Sand in danger of being cut adrift. Bremen, on the other hand, have now moved to eight points clear of the relegation places thanks to the win against their direct rivals. With four games still to play, it should be more than enough to stay up.

Mixed bag in the Champions League

Wolfsburg fared better of the two Geman Champions League teams this week, after a late Arsenal equalizer saw them leave London with a respectable 1-1 draw with Arsenal. Bayern Munich lost 2-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain the day before despite dominating the game. In the other two matches of the round, Barcelona won 3-1 against Real Madrid in the Clásico, as expected, and Juventus surprisingly beat the serial champions Lyon 2-1. The return matches will take place on Wednesday and Thursday.

Hegerberg ends Norway boycott

Some cynics may suggest Ada Hegerberg has ended her international boycott because it no longer captures the public interest. Absence is a powerful tool, but it also has an expiry date: the person on strike requires the stage. Hegerberg’s cause has not been helped by her injury-enforced absence from club football for much of the last two years.

But there are apparently other good reasons why Hegerberg announced on Twitter that she has ended her dispute with the Norwegian federation and is returning to the national team. The federation has changed. For five years, the 2018 World Player of the Year has been on strike with her own team over a lack of equality with the men. To understand how unusual her stance, which saw her miss the 2019 World Cup, is, try to imagine Manuel Neuer single-handedly deciding to boycott the World Cup in Qatar. It feels far-fetched.

"I made a decision in 2017 that I don't regret. But I've had a lot of time to reflect on many aspects of my life over the last two years," Hegerberg said. Speaking to the Guardian, she cites the new president and ex-player Lise Klaveness at the helm of the federation as one of the motives for her return. “She’s very conscious about the challenges we faced back then, the ones I pointed my finger at in 2017, and about the situation of women’s football in general, so it was very relieving to have those talks with her. In long conversations with both Klaveness and former teammates, Hegerberg came away with the impression that much had changed for the better and that she could now make a real impact again as an active player. The Norwegian federation amd the rest of football can rejoice.