Many times in women’s football, a scoreline will pop up with a big name team beating a lesser known team in their league by 10 goals to none. Those scorelines then proceed to be greeted with scoffs or scorns, many pointing out that since so many of these scorelines happen often, the league must be useless, the teams from those leagues surely can’t be as good as those from leagues more “equally balanced” and thus, those leagues aren’t worth your time. That’s not how football works.
Every league should be viewed as often as possible if you profess to be a fan of the game. Broadcasting issues still make it hard for more teams to become known around the world but if you can find a way to watch a league outside of your country or in a language you don’t understand, why not try it? We all came into this sport with no knowledge at some point and we were willing to sit down and learn everything we could about a player, or a team or a league. Why can we not afford the same innocent curiosity to e league that offers up those unbalanced scorelines as well? A team can be dominant in its league and still produce football worth viewing. The team that got shellacked? They deserve another chance to impress and to show that even though they don’t have the financial backing to compete with the Olympique Lyonnais’ of the world, who knows, maybe they have a player there that will capture your imagination. In short, we should give any league across the world enough respect to check it out instead of immediately deciding it’s boring or not worth your time.
A quick rundown of the newly crowned or retaining champions in Europe
After five long years away, FC Barcelona have wrapped up their second consecutive Primera División title in what has been an absorbing and breathless season, that is still far from over. Independent teams like Madrid CFF and UDG Tenerife are battling for a shot at European glory against the likes more recognised names like Real Madrid and Levante UD.
Elsewhere on the continent, Paris Saint-Germain have finally claimed the Division 1 Féminine crown after 14 years of relentless dominance from Olympique Lyonnais. They may not be challenging these two teams any time soon but FCG Bordeaux are a team worthy of anyone’s time and feature some talented players from both the French division and abroad.
In Italy, Juventus once again claimed their fourth successive Scudetto with few others in Serie A able to get close, despite the ramped up investment from teams like AC Milan and A.S. Roma. Fiorentina are still in there with a shout but again, just focusing on the recognised names in the league detracts from other, smaller teams that push these bigger names every season. They deserve just as much attention and a more serious perspective from anyone who decides to watch Serie A. Who knows, maybe they will find the means to push the bigger clubs one day and you will have been there to witness their rise to glory.
In Germany, FC Bayern Munich will be hoping to avoid any mistakes on the last day of the season as their bid to again become Deutsche Meister will go down to the wire, the team only needing a draw to wrestle the crown from VfL Wolfsburg. Keep an eye on Eintracht Frankfurt next season though, they have the talent quickly developing into a team that could threaten the hold the previous two teams have on the German league.
For many, the names are predictable, titles all but decided before seasons even start bringing about derision and talk of easy wins and a lack of competition across the continent. I’d argue that sometimes, the more intriguing storylines in those leagues are happening just below the title race as those independent or lesser known teams look to qualify for continental football or avoid relegation. Those storylines always provide compelling plotlines throughout the season and thus, shouldn’t be dismissed because Barcelona or Bayern strolled to another league title.
It’s a joke/ farmers’ league™
Most leagues will fall into the bracket of two to three teams vying for the title, and every once in awhile, one team will break away like a run away team and dominate proceedings like Barcelona did. However, because of that dominance, many have decided that those leagues show that the sport in those countries shouldn’t be taken seriously or should be considered boring. The French league in particular, carries that reputation too often becomes the whipping boy for the sport, serving up far too much disrespect to those who play in it, week in, week out.
Even the teams that carry an affiliation with better known Ligue 1 sides are usually an afterthought, left to wallow in a part-time status, players left to dream of turning their passion into a profession. And in those lowly teams that spend most of the season getting out-played, chasing the ball from one end of the pitch to the other, there are still players of quality. There are still redeeming performances, both individual and collective, but are too oft overlooked.
A season is never just 22 (or however many) 90-minute increments, and 90 minutes is never just 90 minutes. It’s preparation, it’s graft and sweat on training pitches, hours in the gym, it’s analysis and grit. Every player on every team has a story, things they’ve had to overcome to feel the grass beneath their studs, the dreams of what could yet be.
Each team becomes a patchwork of those individuals, both the players and support staff, each name and each face, a person who has found themselves as part of that specific collective. Win, lose or draw, a match is never just a match and a season is never just a finishing order. The journey each person and each team goes on becomes less than a footnote when we bemoan leagues for their “joke” scorelines and talk of title-winners like Paris Saint-Germain as those given easy matches who have won before a ball has been kicked.
So yes, once again Barcelona are Campeones de España and at times it looked like they were barely breaking a sweat such was their might, but the 2020-21 Primera Iberdrola season was and is so very much more than just that. OL and PSG fight it out every year for the title but other teams push them just as hard whenever they can. All those teams consistently coming in every day to train, sometimes knowing that their opponents coming up heavily outclass them but they still come in every day and train just as hard. That should be commended and respected. Without those teams “making up the numbers” those league wouldn’t exist, and we may never hear of some of the players we know now if they had never been given a platform at those “joke” teams or league. Give them their respect, they deserve it.