Back at the start of January, I took a trip into the unknown. I went to my first women’s match in Spain and since then I’ve been planning on covering it on the blog.
It’s been a big few years for women’s football in Spain as it is slowly but surely increasingly its profile. One big regret from my time living in Huelva was that I never went to watch their women’s team play, the La Orden ground being just a little too far on the edge of the city to make Sunday morning kick offs practical. Fortunately with so many teams located in Madrid, and public transport being much better, I can finally manage to devote a bit of time to it.
Atlético have been one of the clubs at the forefront of the rise of fútbol femenino in the last few years. They’ve won the league in the last two seasons and in March of last year opened up the Wanda Metropolitano for their top-of-the-table clash with Barcelona. Over 60,000 fans attended, which was a world record for a women’s club match.
Their opponents in that game went on to create their own bit of history by becoming the first Spanish team to reach the final of UEFA’s women’s Champions League, although they were beaten heavily by the all-conquering Olympique Lyonnais team.
In the promotional campaign for Atlético’s 2019/20 kit, Olga García and Amanda Sampedro share equal billing with men’s team stars Saúl and Alvaro Morata, while a number of the current women’s squad have earned their own legends plaque outside the Wanda – the reward Atlético give to anyone who plays over 100 games for the club.
Getting to a Game
Going to the Centro Deportivo Wanda is actually simpler than you might think.
The 227 bus from Avenida de America will take you to just outside the ground, which I unfortunately only discovered after taking the Cercanias to the Alcalá University stop and walking almost half an hour through the largely deserted campus. I’ll know for next time!
Once inside, you’ll need to queue for a ticket, which shouldn’t take too long if you’re there nice and early. The tickets are typically €10 but if you happen to be a socio of Atlético, you can get in free of charge.
This is one of the newest grounds in Spanish football, having opened last autumn to ease the strain on Atlético’s other mini-estadio at Cerro Del Espino in Majadahonda. Last season it was being used by Atlético Femenino, the B team in Segunda B and by Rayo Majadahonda in the Segunda which often made scheduling fixtures difficult and meant the pitch took a serious pounding over the course of the season.
No such problems here, the women finally have a stadium more or less to themselves, with some of Atlético’s youth teams also being based at the centre. Aside from the stadium, the complex also features four full-size artificial grass pitches, seven a-side pitches and because it’s in Spain, padel courts.
The main stadium is brilliant and features a really eye-catching design for the main stand, the boxy metalwork which surrounds the upper tier is pretty unique. It’s also the only form of cover in the stadium so if it’s a wet day there’ll be a lot of competition for the seats in there.
Thankfully it was a lovely day when I visited, so I chose to head over to the other, uncovered stand partly to avoid spending 90 minutes shielding my eyes from the sun.
Then towards the end of the game, I moved to stand behind the goal, which was fine although the presence of a large net is a slight irritation when you’re looking to take photos.
Maybe the only real drawback is that if you want to eat there, everything is priced at a similar level to the Wanda Metropolitano. A big bag of crisps and a couple of drinks could end up costing you almost as much as your match ticket!
There was a decent crowd there on the day I visited, notably with lots of families. Atmosphere-wise it doesn’t really compare to other matches I’ve been to this season, aside from the noise generated by a loud crowd of Venezuelans when their countrywoman Deyna Castellanos was brought on for her Atlético debut. And every time she touched the ball afterwards.
I really enjoyed my day out in Alcalá, ok the game wasn’t the most thrilling but there’s definitely plenty to recommend it for another visit in the future.
The next few years are going to be huge for the development of the women’s game in Spain.
Like it or not, the arrival of Real Madrid will have a huge part to play in any growth. For years los blancos stood back from participation in the women’s game, in a similar way to Manchester United in England.
But this ended last summer with the announcement that they would be incorporating newly promoted side CD Tacón into the club and they would take on the Real Madrid name. This caused a certain amount of controversy as this was Madrid circumventing the need to build from the ground up by buying a place in the top flight.
Although the Tacón name was retained for this season (and their wonderful crest) observers were left under no illusions who was calling the shots as a string of big-name signings were unveiled wearing Real Madrid shirts. From a PR point of view, it’s probably helpful that the rebrand has been delayed by 12 months – their first match in the top flight was a 9-1 defeat by Barcelona. Talk of this being the clásico was far off.
There are other issues affecting the league as a whole most notably the issue of earning a fair wage. The weekend of 16th/17th November saw the eight Liga Iberdrola matches canceled as players went on strike for an increase in wages comparable to other full time and part time jobs in Spain. As set out in this article by Athletic Club and Spain goalkeeper Ainhoa Tirapu, the previous agreement didn’t cover players from losing earnings in event of injury or if they took time out to start a family.
On a more positive note this weekend sees the first edition of the newly-expanded Supercopa Femenina, which sees Atlético competing alongside Barcelona, Levante and cup winners Real Sociedad. Unlike the men’s equivalent, this isn’t being staged in Saudi Arabia, but in the rather less politically contentious surroundings of Salamanca. With live national TV coverage, it’s a great showpiece opportunity for the women’s game.
I’m sure the women’s game will continue to grow in Spain. The interest is there as shown by the aforementioned huge crowds at games played in La Liga stadiums though perhaps the one thing it really needs to really kick on is a breakthrough performance from the national team.
In the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Spain reached the second round but were unfortunate that finishing second in their group meant they played the all-conquering USA side. But even then it took them two contested penalties to muscle their way through.
But Spanish football media is a machine which rewards winners. It’s why there’s relentless coverage of Real Madrid and Barcelona. It’s why there has been such a lukewarm reaction to the Spanish men’s team at the tournaments since the golden age ended – coincidentally since I’ve been living here. If Spain can make a major impression in the 2021 Euros in England, then things may change.