Two Champions League finals this week. The men’s Final is on Saturday between the two Madrid clubs Real and Atletico. But I’m going to concentrate on the women’s Champions League Final which will be played tomorrow in Reggio Emilia in Italy.*
Unlike the men’s Final which most people outside Madrid will agree does not feature the two best teams in Europe (most neutrals would have liked to see Bayern Munich managed by Manchester City bound Pep Guadiola play his old club Barcelona) the women’s Final features the two best teams Wolfsburg and Lyon (the only club that might have challenged this – Frau Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich – were sensationally knocked out in the first round by Dutch club FC Twente). Since that event it seemed that only the draw could stop Wolfsburg and Lyon and the two clubs showed their superiority by crushing holders Frankfurt (4-0) and 2015 runners up PSG (7-0) respectively in the Semi Final first leg thus guaranteeing a Final place.
The talent in these teams is awesome. For Lyon : Ada Hegerberg, Eugenie Le Sommer, Amandine Henry, Wendie Renard…for Wolfsburg Lara Dickenmann, Ramona Bachmann, Alex Popp, Theresa Wullaert. And that is just some of the names. Sadly one of the best players of the lot Caroline Graham Hansen is injured again but even so there is enough talent on the field to excite any fan of football not just women’s football.
So what could happen? Heart says Lyon. There is a resemblance to Barcelona in their attacking talent and the way they steamroller minnows. Lotta Schelin, Hegerberg and Le Sommer are women’s football ‘s answer to Messi, Neymar and Suarez- a footballing “Murderer’s Row” of strikers who score ridiculous numbers of goals and scare the opposition witless. But… Lyon like Barcelona don’t dominate as much as the talent should suggest. Since 2008-09 Barcelona and Lyon have “only” won three and two Champions League respectively. Now that is hardly failure but even so… The reason I think Lyon don’t completely dominate the Champions League is the same reason France have not win an international honour. The French players – the core of the team – are talented chokers who miss a lot of chances. This is OK in the French League were Lyon are miles ahead of everyone but not against teams from the Frau Bundesliga which is the best league in Europe.
And that is why the head says Wolfsburg. Because if Lyon miss chances Wolfsburg have the quality – Bachmann, Popp, Wullaert – to punish a Lyon defence which is not used to being tested. Key player for Lyon is Hegerberg who scored 33 League goals this season (the second top scorer scored only 15). She is a far better finisher than the French players. If Wolfsburg stop Hegerberg a third Champions League win in four seasons is very much on the cards. And I’m going with my head on this one…
But there is a problem. If you want to see the match on UK television forget it. It is not live on UK TV**. That is unbelievable and ridiculous but true. The rights to the Champions League are with Eurosport. Now I’m certain that Eurosport International are showing the match to other countries but Eurosport UK are showing French Open tennis instead. On both their channels! That is just ridiculous. What makes it even more of a joke is that Eurosport UK showed first and second round and quarter final matches but not the Semi Finals or the Final. What other tournament is treated like this?
The UK government should intervene. Eurosport UK must be taken off air at once and replaced with Eurosport International. Long term when the men’s Champions League contract comes up UEFA must insist that any station that covers the men’s Champions League must cover the women’s too. It might cost them money – for example Sky in the UK are so sexist they probably won’t bid for the men’s Champions League in that scenario. But if UEFA cares about women’s football sacrifices have to be made. Also the likes of Manchester United should be told that if they don’t start a women’s team they are out of the Champions League until they do.
The fact that in 2016 the women’s Champions League Final is not on UK TV is embarrassing. Heads must roll. And it must never happen again.
*Since the Women’s Champions League began in 2009-10 (before that it was called the UEFA Women’s Cup) the Final has been played in or near the city that hosts the men’s Final. As the men’s Final is in Milan this year’s is being played near the men’s host city rather than in it.
**Former UK Prime Minister Harold MacMillan was once asked what he feared most and replied “Events dear boy. Events”. Well events have overtaken this post. Eurosport UK have announced today(May 26th) that the Women’s Champions League Final is being shown live after all. I stand by the rest of what I wrote though. The Women’s Champions League should be included in a “package deal” with the men’s when the contract for the latter comes up for renewal.