When is a Clásico not a Clásico?

Real Madrid v Barcelona is arguably the biggest fixture in world football.

Unless you’re talking about women’s football that is…

This past weekend Real Madrid and Barcelona met officially for the first time. I had hoped to be in attendance but Covid-19 restrictions meant I had to take my place on the sofa to witness this historic moment.

Excuse the yellow walls

The New Kids on the Block

For Ana Rossell, this weekend’s game was the culmination of 23 years of effort.

It was 1997 when she first raised the subject of a Real Madrid women’s team with then-President Lorenzo Sanz but he wasn’t enthusiastic about it and successive club administrations gave the idea similarly short shrift.

Rossell was subsequently involved in the setting up of Club Deportivo Tacón in 2014 and became the club’s first president.

The name Tacón (Spanish for heel) was illustrated in the club’s wonderful and unique crest – which depicted a mixture of a football boot and a high-heeled shoe.

The old logo of CD Tacón

Tacón also served as an acronym representing the qualities of the club

Trabajo

Atrevimiento

Conocimiento

Organización

Notoriedad

A number of people connected to the club have stated that Real Madrid were always behind the scenes – something perhaps hinted at in Tacón’s choice of an all white kit – but it was only after they won promotion in the summer of 2019 that Los Blancos made an official move to absorb the club into their structure, something which attracted criticism from many in the women’s game in Spain, who felt Madrid should have started out at the bottom themselves and not waited for this kind of opportunity to arise.

Although the move came too late for an official full-scale rebranding, meaning the Tacón name would survive for one year in Primera Iberdrola, the club moved its home games to Real Madrid’s ciudad deportiva at Valdebebas and new signings who arrived, such as Swedish World Cup star Kosovare Asllani, would announce they had joined Real Madrid on their social media feeds.

On 8th September 2019, Tacón made their debut in the top flight but received the proverbial baptism of fire as they lost 9-1 at Barcelona. They would eventually finish the season in tenth place – when the season was cut short by the pandemic in March.

Their link-up with Real Madrid was officially approved this past summer and to their credit, the club has been quite proactive in promoting the side, with their players taking prominent positions in kit launch photos alongside the likes of Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos.

One negative is that, for the time being at least, they will continue to play matches at one of the smaller grounds at Valdebebas. With Covid-19 restrictions in Madrid currently making it difficult to have fans at matches, this is less of an issue but when fans are allowed back, only a small number will be able to see them play. And as with Castilla (Madrid’s reserve side who play in Segunda B) it seems as though entrance will be limited to socios and limited numbers of away fans.

Barcelona – The Established Force

In contrast to Real Madrid, Barcelona have already reached the top of the women’s game in Spain.

Last season was one of their most successful ever as they remained unbeaten domestically, being crowned champions for the first time in five years – they held a nine point advantage over second-places Atlético when the competition was halted – and winning the first ever Supercopa femenina in Salamanca in February with a crushing 10-1 victory over Real Sociedad.

The only disappointment was their failure to match their performance in the 2018/19 Champions League – they became the first Spanish club to reach the final – when they lost to Wolfsburg in the semi-finals in San Sebastián in August.

Barça have competed at national level since their foundation in 1988 and although they may top the all-time table for points, they haven’t always enjoyed success.

Their first title didn’t arrive until 2011/12 and before that, they had even endured the humiliation of relegation after finishing bottom in 2006/07. Last season’s triumph was their fifth, equalling Athletic Club’s total and setting a new record of their own is surely their objective this season.

But typically enough, the rivalry between a club from Madrid and Barcelona has come to dominate Fútbol femenino, but in this case, it is Atlético who have made up the other half. They won three successive titles between 2017 and 2019 and are likely to again represent Barcelona’s greatest challengers this coming season so understandably enough there’s a lot of people on the red and white side of the city who aren’t happy at the media rushing to dub this new fixture as el clásico.

It was only last year that Atlético and Barcelona set a new world record attendance at a women’s club football match when 60,739 fans turned out at the Wanda Metropolitano in March 2019. A far cry from the setting for the first meeting of Real Madrid and Barcelona which would be played behind closed doors at one of the smaller stadiums in Real Madrid’s training complex.

Un Nuevo Clásico?

With so much anticipation in the build-up to the game, it was a shame the game turned out to be extremely one-sided.

Barcelona ran out comfortable 4-0 winners, with an early deflected goal from Patri, an unlucky own goal scored by Madrid goalkeeper Misa and strikes from Lieke Martens and Alexia. The most concerning thing for their rivals is that they clearly still have a few gears they can go up.

It wouldn’t be Real Madrid v Barça without a healthy dose of polémica though. Asllani thought she had scored the historic first goal for the club to level the scores at 1-1 late in the first half, only to see the goal ruled out for a foul on Barça goalkeeper Sandra Paños. The Swedish striker took to Instagram after the game, sharing a number of photos which showed her leg being held by Paños, as if initiating a rudimentary rugby tackle.

Had that goal been allowed to stand, who knows?

Real Madrid clearly have big plans for their women’s team. They wouldn’t have got involved if they didn’t believe they could be the best – because that’s what the club is like. But on this evidence they have a long way to go before this is a rivalry on the same level as the men’s game.

As for me, I’m just hoping I get the chance to go and see both teams in person a few times this season.

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