The Champions League is back in full swing. Saturday sees the first leg of the semi-finals. The first tie sees holders FFC Turbine Potsdam travel to fellow German club FCR Duisburg. The other sees Arsenal Ladies take a trip across the Channel to Olympique Lyonnais.
After making smooth progress through the group stages of the Champions League with wins against ZFW Masinac and Rayo Vallecano, Arsenal were been particularly convincing in their last-eight match, requiring a late Katie Chapman goal against Swedish side Linkoping to send them through to the semi-finals on the away goals rule. This was just six weeks after she had returned from the US having played for Chicago Red Stars for six months.
They also have a poor record against Lyon, who have beaten Arsenal in both their previous meetings, including in a quarter final in the 2007/08 season.
Arsenal are on course, however, to secure a cup double after beating Sunderland after extra-time in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. It is set to become a great year for Arsenal Ladies, as they are also entered into the inaugural FA WSL, a new elite semi-professional league, which will comprise of eight clubs and be played during the summer.
The league will be shown live and in highlights on ESPN and the hope is that this will take advantage of there being very little men’s football happening and will hopefully allow women to earn a good living from the game and allow the clubs to promote women’s football and derive new and greater revenue streams from it. The new season kicks off on the 14th April, although Arsenal’s first game is not till the 21st April, at home to Bristol Academy.
Although it is unfortunate in some ways that it has been deemed necessary for the women’s game to have to move away from football’s traditional home in the winter, any chance to promote the game and make strides into creating a sustainable professional system has to be viewed as a good thing.
The World Cup is also held this year, taking place in June in Germany. Several Arsenal players feature in the England team that will hope to go far in the tournament following a recent 2-1 win over USA, who are currently ranked as the world’s top team. It is hoped that events like these will help fuel the current rise in popularity that women’s football is achieving both in Britain and worldwide.
There are now 260,400 women and girls who play football around Britain, ahead of most other teams sports including Rugby Union, Rugby League, Hockey and Volleyball. With continued support, this number is surely set to grow.
The Champions League final will this year be hosted at Craven Cottage, Fulham. Tickets are only £5 and the game should be an excellent showcase for women’s football. Particularly for Arsenal fans this year, it may be the only opportunity that we get to see any silverware lifted!