National player Lina Magull: It's not about envy or money, but about recognition!


13.07.2020 Reading time: 3 min

I am a professional soccer player. That is a privilege, and I am absolutely aware of it.

I've loved this sport for as long as I can remember and I'm grateful that I was able to turn soccer, my passion, into my profession. In the meantime, I also see this privilege as an obligation. I'm committed to helping young female players, my colleagues and the importance of women's soccer as a whole. After all, it doesn't have anywhere near the status it deserves in Germany.

Let me make one thing clear in advance:

This is not about pity, nor is it a debate about envy with regard to men's soccer. It is solely about naming grievances, explaining positive examples - and formulating constructive proposals based on them. The aim must at least be to stimulate a discussion about the importance and recognition of women's soccer in Germany.

We often sacrifice more than the men

It's also important to me because since I was a kid, I've seen firsthand how the quality of women's soccer has improved. Yes, it's not as athletic as men's soccer, it's less dynamic. In the end, it's different, but it has qualities all its own - and maybe we should just stop comparing the women and the men on the pitch.

The fact that women's soccer in Germany has developed so positively in terms of quality is also due to the fact that clubs are becoming more professional - hard work that many overlook.

We women train just as intensively as the men - and sometimes make greater sacrifices. To some, this statement may seem provocative and out of touch with reality, but I want to substantiate it: At FC Bayern, we train once or twice a day. On top of that, most of us have an additional burden besides soccer in the form of work or studies.

We also abstain from parties, control our eating habits, strive for the big picture, and are disciplined. We subordinate everything to soccer - even our family planning.

The fact that professional female athletes can't afford to have children in the middle of their careers is often brushed aside. If a 25-year-old professional has three children, which is wonderful, it poses no problem whatsoever for his career.

What's more, many of us leave our families at an early age because there is no ambitious women's team in the area - and later on we don't have the (financial) means to bring our family members to our place of residence, or at least to have them fly in from time to time. And again: We are happy to do it. We are not victims. We are grateful to be on the court.

The quality of women's soccer is rising, spectator numbers are falling

Before Corona, an average women's Bundesliga match in the 2018/19 season had just under 850 spectators. Abroad - if we take the (women's) soccer nations of England (+78 percent), France (+27 percent) and the USA (+149 percent) as examples - spectator numbers have risen rapidly when compared with the 2012/13 season.

The shocking thing: In Germany, they have fallen. Yet connoisseurs of women's soccer will agree that the quality has reached a much higher level in recent years. German women's soccer has become more athletic, technically and tactically demanding. So why are the spectators staying away? What are other leagues doing better?

This circumstance is surely also due to the fact that there are too few identification figures today that young female soccer players can look up to. What passerby can name three female national soccer players off the top of his head? We need names like Birgit Prinz again - identification figures who have a certain presence and name recognition. To achieve this, we need to do more: at the clubs themselves, in marketing and in media presence.

The clubs are required

One reason for the limited appeal of women's soccer is certainly the lack of meshing with men's soccer. Teams like FC Barcelona manage to let the men's celebrities radiate onto the women. There are joint team photos, media appointments, events, and a basic desire to let the women's teams share in the success of the men.

A simple, constructive and easy-to-implement suggestion: In England, it is common practice for players from the men's and women's teams to be present at autograph sessions. That would be a start. In the same way, the women could always be integrated into the clubs' respective marketing channels - whether social media, their own video channel or some press conference. So there's still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to dovetailing the men's and women's worlds.

Much more critical, however, is the fact that most of the well-known Bundesliga clubs criminally neglect or push aside women's soccer. A look at the Flyeralarm Women's Bundesliga: the percentage of teams represented in the league with a top-class and well-known men's division is 58 percent. In England, this percentage is 100 percent, and in France and Spain it is 75.

Major German soccer clubs like Borussia Dortmund and VfB Stuttgart, with hundreds of thousands of fans, many of them female, still do not have a women's division. At the same time, women's teams are also structurally disadvantaged and subordinated at the grassroots level. A current example is 1. FC Mönchengladbach.

The club's board recently decided not to register the 1st and 2nd women's teams and the U17 junior team for the 2020/2021 season. The reason: the first men's team has been promoted to the top division.

The affected players found out shortly before the registration deadline - if you believe them (which I do), there was no prior agreement. This may be an extreme example, but it is emblematic of the way women's soccer is handled in many German clubs.

We need more media presence

In addition, we need more presence in the media - on TV, in newspapers, magazines and online portals, on social media. We have tens of thousands of young female players who are looking for role models, who want to look up to professional players.

I don't want to weaken men's soccer at all - I follow the Bundesliga closely and am a big fan of my male colleagues. But it's this over-presence that bothers me. It's not just women's soccer that suffers from this over-presence. Other sports also get a raw deal.

I'm sometimes amazed at the trifles that are sensationalized in the media, while other sports disappear completely under the radar. When a spat on the training field takes up more media space than the women's cup final, it irritates me.

I'm thinking in particular of the public broadcaster. It has the responsibility and the opportunity to give topics a different weighting than media that are only dependent on short-term click figures. Why is there no sign of that?

I follow every Bundesliga matchday intensively. But why does Tagesthemen have to report in detail on the games of the 1st league directly after the sports show - while women's soccer, as well as other sports, are completely drowned out?

A counterexample: the BBC will soon be releasing the second season of a documentary about the women's team of West Ham United. And there are numerous other platforms for women's soccer in the UK, such as the app FA Player, where all women's games are streamed live and commented on, while the topic is not very tangible in Germany. So a little more diversity would sometimes do us a world of good.

It's not about envy, it's about perception

In addition, we also need new approaches in marketing. I'm not naive: There's a lot of money at stake in professional soccer. It has to be earned. The point is: we female soccer players can be role models, too - or to put it in monetary terms: We too can conquer markets.

I deliberately want to give a positive example: In its last promotion campaign, Adidas not only took photos of current FC Bayern Munich pros, but also of a few of our female players. These are great approaches. That's how we get attention and that's how we can build female role models.

And yes, of course we'd also like to earn as much money to be able to secure ourselves financially through soccer alone, but in fact our primary concern is to strengthen women's soccer.

We stand for passion, joy and enthusiasm.

And that's what we want to share. And, as a supplementary note: We usually get off on marketing activities and don't see them as a necessary evil, like many of our male colleagues.

We stand for passion and not for the drive for million dollar salaries

I love soccer. It is my life. I'm glad I have the opportunity to be on the pitch every day. Because it's not primarily about money. Soccer is so much more. We soccer fans all know that.

That's why I decided to become a brand ambassador for B42. I don't get any referrals for my postings, nor is it about self-marketing. It's about making soccer better together - at all levels. So let's have the discussion: How can we improve women's soccer in a sustainable way? I'm looking forward to it!

Your Lina Magull

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