I hate Potsdam. I hate it‘s baroque chintziness, its seemingly obsessional cleanliness and it does little other than remind me of a thousand school trips to places like this that I never wanted to go to in the first place. I get the impression that if one more cherub were to land on San Soucci then the whole place would become too heavy and sink, leaving nothing but a huge mineshaft lined with gold leaf and marble.
So why did I end up there at 10:30 on a Sunday morning, when the thermometer is miles below zero and my fingers could barely move enough to roll a cigarette, let alone write coherent notes?
Well, I was there to see the current European Champions League winners, the German league winners and their cast of international footballers, whose undeniable achievements barely seem to warrant a mention in the sporting press, let alone sparking the jubilation that would spread nationwide if even the hated Bayern Munich were to win the half of this stuff.
1.FFC Turbine Potsdam were at home to 1.FC Saarbrücken in the home they share with Babelsberg 03, the Karl Liebknecht Stadium. A brilliant, old fashioned football ground that has been remodelled to drag it kicking and screaming into a century that the rest of the town is seemingly, blissfully, unaware of. It‘s terraces were filled with a surprisingly, to me, large crowd. Certainly larger than any football teams attendance in the region outside of Hertha, Union and Babelsberg themselves. Over a thousand had dragged themselves out of bed for this, it can‘t be all bad surely?
But women’s football? Surely this must be some kind of joke. I like to think that most of us are past the summit of boneheadedness recently mounted by SKY TV‘s Andy Grey and Richard Keys, where sexism in football is not only to be expected, but almost seen as a badge of honour. I know we are past that point, because these imbeciles were fired (not, unfortunately, out of a cannon), but they are still depressingly representative of a swathe of thinking about the women’s game.
When Sepp Blatter, the de-facto ruler of world football, suggested that if they wanted more people to watch the women’s game then they should wear shorter shorts, his tongue was not necessarily in his cheek. It was lolling around his big goofy fat mouth as he imaginied the hotpants on display.
But the problem with women’s football is not the length of their shorts, it is more to do with the gulf in class of the top sides. Germany is a world leader, and it‘s league is second only to that of the money rich equivalent in the USA. But Turbine were so far ahead of Saarbrücken that they would need to have left a trail of breadcrumbs a mile long to find their way back to them.
Viola Odebrecht bossed the midfield like a latter day Frank Rijkaard, left back Tabea Kemme had so much space to maraud up the wing she may as well have had leprosy. National striker Anja Mittag was sublime in places, her silky touch destroying the idea that women footballers have no technique and her brutal tackling and strength on the run doing the same for the notion that they are too soft for a man’s sport.
Mittag was superb all day, her link-up play with triple scorer Yuki Nagasato was sometimes breathtaking.
Turbine didn‘t miss the runner up in world player of the year, Lira Bajramaj whose four goals had helped defeat Bad Neuenahr last week, and sit a point clear of Frankfurt at the top of the league with just two games to play.
The knowledgable, overwhelmingly male crowd was ecstatic in a cheery sort of way at the 7-0 victory. The game is certainly different. Opposition players were applauded, and the referee recieved none of the abuse that accompanies them in the men’s game. Maybe it was the numbing affect of the cold, or I really could see the future of women’s football. It is both affordable and technically accomplished.
The World Cup this year, here in Germany, should open it up to a whole new market of fans depressed with the cash driven banality of top flight football. Lets hope that if Turbine do defend their league and cup wins this year that the reaction will be a little stronger this time.