Tag Archives: Lyon

Shame on sexist Eurosport UK

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.


A tale of two footballers

This is a tale of two footballers. Both among the best in the world. One is nominated for the FIFA Ballon D’Or award the other should be. Both are rumoured to be leaving their clubs next summer – one is a free agent the other has apparently fell out with his current club. One suspects most clubs would sign these players if they could.

There is one difference between them. One is a man – Cristiano Ronaldo who needs no introduction from me. One is a woman – Amandine Henry of Lyon and France. For those who don’t know she is a midfielder who was voted the third best player in this year’s Women’s World Cup but for some reason best known to the voters is not among the top three contenders for the Ballon D’Or. She is out of contract with Lyon after this season while there are rumours that he is fed up with Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez and might want to leave in the summer. Real fans were not happy when after a Champions League tie against Paris Saint Germain (PSG) he greeted the French club’s owner “like some lost friend” according to Keith Jackson in today’s Daily Record. So it is at least possible Amandine and Cristiano could be looking for new clubs this summer. And while it is a dead cert that Cristiano’s wage packet will be bigger than Amandine’s – it is reckoned Cristiano earns more in a week than Amandine earns in a year (gender equality football style!) it is interesting to see which clubs would be in contention to sign Cristiano and Amandine if they wanted to move. And the answer is surprising.

First Cristiano. While every club on this planet would want to sign him I reckon the only ones that could afford to are Barcelona, PSG, Manchester United, Manchester City and perhaps Bayern Munich. But as a Real player I cannot see him going to Barcelona ( though compatriot Luis Figo did move in the opposite direction back in 2000). Nor as an ex United hero can I see him in the blue of Chelsea or City. Since I don’t think Bayern can afford him that means if he does want to leave Real it can only be for United or PSG. But Real and United get on about as well as David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn as the farce of David de Gea’s non transfer showed. No wonder Keith Jackson is not alone in thinking that Cristiano will be in Paris next year(and NOT just for Euro 2016!)….

Now Amandine. Again like Cristiano there are few clubs she could go to if she decided to leave Lyon although this time it is because very few women’s clubs have any money at all. Again every club on this planet would want to sign her but I reckon the only ones that could afford to are Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg, PSG, and perhaps Chelsea or Manchester City (interesting to note the overlap with the big male clubs that would not have happened say ten years ago). But like Cristiano I’d be surprised if she joined her current club’s main rivals and the two UK clubs are handicapped by the salary cap in the Women’s Super League (WSL) – a pity as I’d love to see her play here. So at first glance it looks like Amandine will be in Germany next year if she leaves Lyon.

But in her case it is not that simple. For despite the difference in salary Amandine has an option Cristiano does not. There is no league outside europe which is rich or competitive enough to attract elite male players. But in the women’s game there is an other option. Namely the American Women’s National Soccer League (NWSL) the league where the mighty World Champion US players play in. Although the wages are low it won’t be a huge difference compared to europe and she would be playing with and against the best players in the world. In fact Amandine recently begun to follow the NWSL’s best supported club the Portland Thorns on Twitter which may (or may not) mean anything…

So Amandine despite the sexism and wage inequality in football actually has more future career options than Cristiano. An ironic twist to this tale of two footballers….