Jasmine Baba looks at the growth of the women’s game and the momentum it’s gaining.
Women playing football has never been out of the norm for me. My sister, 10 years older, used to play. She had a lot of male friends and would have a kick around with them, along with our two older brothers. My sister was good at football, she could run rings around the boys. She was quick but strong. I was in awe, but unfortunately that was as far as she got.
Women’s football is still miles behind the men’s game. However, after it’s many ups and downs, it seems the growth of the game seems to be gaining real forward momentum with over 100,000 registered female players and WSL games being played in major stadiums.
The biggest tell-tale of the growth of it in this country is the admiration of the players.
This became apparent to me in July. Arsenal WFC played a friendly against FC Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium. Players of the home team that weren’t participating in the match held a meet-and-greet before kick-off, along with their WSL title, for fans to take pictures with.
The queue started to build up after I got there, but the thing that was most telling about waiting in line was that it wasn’t just women and kids going to meet the team. There were male fans too, some with WFC player’s names on their shirt.
The most popular name I saw, by a mile, was Danielle van de Donk. Hailing from Valkenswaard, van de Donk caught the eye during her time in the Eredivisie at PSV, netting 36 goals in 66 games. Not long after, she joined Arsenal. An attacking midfielder, her favoured role is in the number 10 spot, but she can play in several attacking positions including in the centre of midfield and on the right. It’s her offensive flexibility that makes her such an asset and was utilised in this way for the Dutch national team at the World Cup.
At 28 years old, she’s already received 100 caps for her country with 18 goals to her name including one in their defeat of England in the semi-final of the 2017 Euros, which they would go on to win.
In her spell at Arsenal she’s won the FA Women’s Cup, the Conti Cup and the WSL title. She also had her best creative year last year with 13 goals and six assists in all competitions. Watching her play, it’s almost incomparable to anything or anyone else.
It’s not just her attacking prowess that has made her a favourite with the fans, it’s her defensively bold tactical awareness and no-nonsense personality that shines through her tackles.
So, here’s to the cult classic. The woman who hasn’t omitted her personality in her play. Why she’s my favourite? She reminds me of a certain player I used to watch run rings around the local boys.
Follow Jasmine on Twitter @_BabsJ