FC Barcelona Femení thriving despite all the turmoil

FC Barcelona Femení thriving despite all the turmoil

You would be forgiven if you thought FC Barcelona were in meltdown mode. Debt, ridiculous wage bills and politics that are so insane, turmoil is the default setting. But, away from the men’s team going up in flames, FC Barcelona Femení are thriving, and at the heart of it is their captain, leader and new legend, Alexia Putellas.

It was only 15 years ago FC Barcelona Femení were training on whatever pitch was available, usually turf, usually patchy and usually at ridiculous hours of the day. At the time, the team and the league were nowhere near professional, stuck in amateur mode and usually cast aside as a thorn in the football federation’s side.

The Spanish women’s national team had players, such as Vero Boquete, Melanie Serrano and others, and eventually qualified for their first World Cup in 2015. The federation constantly left the Spanish team under resourced, and the tension eventually led to Vero Boquete walking away in her prime.

Away from individual accolades, Putellas has become the perfect metaphor for women in sport in Spain

But, the seed was sown, and many teams saw that women’s football was growing in popularity. Former Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu saw a chance to grow the team and laid the foundations for the women’s team to succeed.

FC Barcelona Femení were now incorporated in with the men’s teams, Lieke Mertens, the Dutch hero from their home European championships triumph, was bought, and the long-awaited return of Jenni Hermoso boosted a young but talented team.

Add to that, Alexia Putellas was finally finding her form in this team as an offensive midfielder, constantly driving the ball in transition and getting a few goals along the way. In the Champions League last season, Putellas finished with two goals, the most by a midfielder, and earned individual accolades to go alongside her season-best, 43 games, 26 goals and MVP in the Copa de la Reina. Once dubbed the Queen of Catalonia alongside Gerard Pique by a magazine in Barcelona, Putellas could be your next Ballon d’Or winner.

Away from individual accolades, Putellas has become the perfect metaphor for women in sport in Spain. An obsessed Barcelona fan, she, along with others, have come from playing on bad pitches at ridiculous times to being incorporated into the Estadi Johan Cruyff to leading Barcelona Femení out in the Camp Nou for the first time in 50 years.

That was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the match that women’s side Selecció Ciutat Barcelona played there on Christmas Day in 1970. The women’s team was officially barred from using club colours, crests, logos, or identify under the FC Barcelona banner.

And yet, failure is what continues to drive this team. On the May 18th, 2019, Barcelona were up against Lyon in the women’s Champions League final. By that game, Lyon had won the French national title for 13 years and lost only two league games over the last nine seasons. Its goal difference over that period is a scarcely credible plus-957.

Alexia Putellas celebrates after scoring for Spain during a 2023 World Cup qualifier against Ukraine in Kovalivka last month. Photograph: Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA

In Europe, Lyon made eight of the last 10 Champions League finals and won the previous three, adding the fourth title against Barcelona in a 4-1 romp, which Chelsea and Australian striker Sam Kerr sarcastically tweeted how competitive European football was.

Barcelona learned from their failures, and in a crazy season rocked by Covid-19, Barcelona had 33 wins and one loss in 34 league games, scoring 167 goals, conceding 15 and winning a treble in spectacular fashion, winning the Champions League against Chelsea, who, in a weird full-circle moment, had Sam Kerr in their team alongside Pernille Herder in a team of Galacticos.

And yet, Barcelona women’s teams aren’t finished. So far in the league, they’ve won all eight games, scoring 51 goals and conceding two. Over the summer, sporting director Markel Zubizarreta and Barça Femení added three quality players in Ingrid Engen, Fridolina Rolfö and Irene Paredes – all on free transfers after their contracts ran out at Wolfsburg and PSG.

Funnily enough, Barcelona have managed to reach perfection and still continue to get better. Despite scheduling hurdles, very little publicity, and playing many games in a short space of time, they continue to dominate, win, and learn.

Putellas, now captain, now role model, summed it up best in her interview on Barcelona’s official website. “Now we are fighting for equal opportunities, valuing a person regardless of their sex, and that is important for all women, that we are all conscious of that whatever our profession may be. Ours, even more so because I have not had female role models.

“Girls today see that they have named several Barça players as the best in Europe and the most important thing is that these girls have the opportunity to do the same.When I feel most comfortable is when they treat me as a footballer, not a male or female player, a footballer and I think this is where we need to go”.

Not only are they just footballers, but they also happen to be the best in the world.

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