When anyone discussed women’s football at club level, there are no better examples to what can be done when an owner puts their “money where their mouth is” than Olympique Lyonnais Féminin (OL). This has led to them winning the Division 1 Féminine title a record seventeen times. They have their challengers, Paris Saint-Germain Féminine (PSG) chiefly, but having not lost the title since 2006, the rest of the league have a lot to do to stop the reign of OL in France.
If you are preparing to watch the D1F for the first time this season, be aware that Olympique Lyonnais tend to not only win their games but win them in dominant fashion. While others may find watching what is essentially a two-horse league with only one outcome tedious, the true attraction of the league is watching the so-called lesser teams navigate their way through each season.
Challengers to OL’s hold on the domestic game in France have not done enough in my eyes to topple the current league champions. PSG have a very strong starting eleven, one that can compete with OL but their depth is nowhere near that of the French champions. Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani are just a few of the talented players on PSG’s roster, but given the 5-0 thrashing they received at the hands of OL in April, not even they are enough to help PSG try and topple the title holders. Montpellier Hérault Sport Club Féminines have lost Swedish duo Sofia Jakobsson and Stina Blackstenius to Club Deportivo Tacón and Linköpings Fotboll Club respectively, which leaves Valérie Gauvin as Montpellier’s most effective striker. Again, like PSG, that will not be enough to stop OL so Montpellier’s goal this season should be to return to the UEFA Women’s Champions League but even that may prove difficult as they are also not strong enough to finish above PSG.
The final would-be challengers for the title of at least a continental spot are last season’s surprise performers Football Club des Girondins de Bordeaux Féminines (FCGB) and Paris FC Féminines (Paris). FCGB have made some astute signings at both the manager position and their overall roster, but they are still not quite ready to challenge the top teams of France, all things being equal. Paris FC came into the division as part of the now defunct Football Club Féminin Juvisy Essonne team but they have flattered to deceive at every turn. They too also possess some notable names but they have failed to live up to the quality they have and it’s hard to see that changing this season.
Each season, two teams move up from Division 2 Féminine, and while one team almost always goes right back down at the end of the season, the other team tends to surprise and hang in there just enough to stay for another season in France’s premier league. This upcoming season, Olympique de Marseille Féminin (OM) returns to D1F after spending a season in the second division. They are joined by Reims Football Féminin (Stade de Reims) who were title holders in the first division over two decades ago and have managed to find their way back to the top this season.
OM were the division’s dark horses three seasons ago and finished in fourth. An abysmal season followed that and they were relegated to the second division, losing key players along the way. However, their overall quality proved to be vital in them gaining promotion and manager Christophe Parra has seemingly found his tactical magic again with OM. Stade de Reims on the other hand, are a completely unknown quantity to those who watch the D1F regularly. They will have their task cut out for them as they go up against teams that possess international superstars and will need to find a way to grind out results against those teams around them in the lower reaches of the table. If one team looks ready to keep their top flight hopes alive for another season, it’s OM and Stade de Reims will unfortunately drop down a league once again when all is said and done.
Everyone else within this twelve team league will be battling to either stay as a mid-table team or to avoid relegation. Most teams will look to concede as little as possible against the big teams and then try and pick up as many points as possible against each other throughout the season. The title chase may be great viewing for three-quarters of the season but OL always manage to pull away in the spring so as a new viewer, give the other teams some of your time. Like FCGB last season, they may surprise you with just how enjoyable their football can be.