Women's football rising: FC Bayern Frauen
Our German photographer is Marisa Schlenker from Bad Durrheim in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Marisa took photos of an FC Bayern Frauen Bundesliga match and of local community football in Bad Durrheim. We spoke to her about the growth of women’s football and the importance of the game to local communities.
Who is in the photos?
The photos were taken in Grünwalder Stadion at a FC Bayern Frauen Bundesliga match against FC Köln. My son is the little boy walking down the stairs in the stadium. The photos were taken before and during the game and I was trying to give an impression of the atmosphere. As you can see the stands were nowhere near being full, so I could walk around freely and enjoy the space, which is good for families but not what the team and club are aspiring to.
There were lots of families there with many children getting autographs before the game and climbing on the metal gates surrounding the pitch. There was a group of supporters with some drums chanting throughout the game. For a family it was a perfect event - we could buy the tickets there, they were quite affordable, the children could move around and most importantly, the football was a very high level. Additionally the players were available to sign autographs and to speak with fans. They were very approachable and open.
There are also some photos from a game in Bad Durrheim in the Black Forest. It is a small town and at the weekend the community comes out to support the team, which you can see from the standing crowd. It is a new pitch and currently the community is trying to raise enough money to cover the costs.
Why is football so important for German people?
Where we live in Germany, there are many small towns and villages. In most of these towns, even if a bakery and butcher are the only shops, a football field will also have an important place in the community. In Bad Durrheim the football field acts as a key connection point in the town for the community. They bring together people of all ages, ability and interests. Clubs or vereine in German, are said to be the backbone of German society and football clubs are no exception. When the World Cup took place in 2014 crowds gathered for outdoor viewings, even in smaller towns like my own.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
I am very engaged in women’s football, as a player, a supporter and an activist. I say activist because there are so many challenges facing women in football. There is the constant argument about women's football development, which is always being compared to men's football in terms of its product, revenue potential and marketability. I always find the inequalities are linked to the fact that women's football games do not get enough fans or public interest and therefore sponsors are not as interested and the media does not take notice.
However this is changing, as was shown by the 2015 World Cup in Canada, where records for tickets sold and viewers were broken.
I wanted to give a glimpse of the culture surrounding professional women's football in Germany. Germany is highly recognised for its women's league, as it has a longer history, is well connected to the men's league and is evolving.
Is there a lot of support for women’s football in Germany?
Both the men and women’s national teams are celebrated, especially after the men's success in the 2014 World Cup. The men’s Bundesliga is present everywhere, with the stars being highly visible in adverts and in media. Ahead of the men’s 2014 World Cup there was an excitement and constant conversation about the team whereas in 2015, many people did not realise the women’s World Cup matches were about to happen. However, when I was in Berlin in 2015 towards the end of the tournament, I was amazed at the increased level of excitement around the tournament.
Germany is recognised for both its programs and both have had a lot of success. There is a strong youth and grassroots program as well as the professional leagues acting as a player pool for the national teams.
What is your favourite photo?
My favourite photo is where the children are climbing on the metal fencing surrounding the fields. I work with a collective called the Guerreiras Project - I have seen a similar photo from Brazil where a group of young girls are leaning against a fence, watching a men's game. These girls are sidelined not by their own choice, but because they do not have the opportunities to play. In Germany, women and girls are playing and have been playing for a long time. However, I would say that there are still many barriers impeding full development.