Acceptance and Popularity
For most of the 20th century, women's football was a niche sport in Germany and was frowned upon. When the DFB appointed Gero Bisanz to coach the newly founded women's national team, he was initially very reluctant about his assignment and feared it would harm his reputation. Winning the 1989 European Championship was the team's first international success, but it had little lasting effect on their popularity. As a gift for the first European trophy, every player received a tea set, which is often cited as an example of male chauvinism and general lack of interest in the women's national team at that time. This attitude within the German Football Association has changed considerably in the last two decades and current DFB president Theo Zwanziger is an outspoken supporter of women's football. Each member of the 2003 Women's World Cup squad received a prearranged bonus of 15,000 euros for winning the tournament; four years later the players received 50,000 euros for their successful title defense. In 2009, one million of the 6.7 million DFB members were female.
The 2003 World Cup title marked the breakthrough for the women’s national football team in Germany. The final was watched by 10.48 million viewers on German television (a 33.2 percent market share) and the German team was welcomed home by almost 10,000 fans at Frankfurt's city hall. Later that year, they were honoured as the 2003 German Sports Team of the Year. Nia Künzer's World Cup winning golden goal was voted Germany's 2003 Goal of the Year, the first time the award was won by a female player. Since 2005, almost all of the women’s national football team's matches have been shown live on German television.
The final of the 2007 Women's World Cup was seen by 9.05 million television viewers (a 50.5 percent market share). After the team returned to Germany, they were celebrated by a crowd of 20,000 in Frankfurt. In December 2007, all players of the World Cup squad received the Silberne Lorbeerblatt (Silver Laurel Leaf), the highest state decoration for athletes in Germany. National coach Silvia Neid was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on ribbon by German president Horst Köhler.
In 2009, the team's six home matches had an average attendance of 22,753. In a survey of German football fans, 65 percent of the male and 62 percent of the female respondents said they were interested in women's football. However, this popularity is mostly limited to international matches. Although the number of spectators in the women's Bundesliga has more than doubled since 2003, the average attendance in the 2007–08 season (887) was still less than three percent of that of the men's Bundesliga (38,612).
Today, women's football is socially accepted in Germany, although one of the main points of criticism remains the alleged lack of quality compared to the men’s game. The German women’s national team has played several exhibition matches against male teams, most notably losing 0–3 to the VfB Stuttgart Under-17 squad in preparation for the 2003 World Cup. Most German players dismiss comparisons between the quality of men's and women's football; Renate Lingor has said they are "two entirely different sports". Players such as Simone Laudehr, Ariane Hingst and Melanie Behringer have stated that men’s football is played at a much faster pace, but also has more interruptions and brutal tackling than the women's game. Linda Bresonik has said she generally prefers to watch men's football.
Read more about this topic: Germany Women's National Football Team
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