I watched Arsenal v PSG the other night, my first ever women football game.
On my Italian blog, I recently paired up with Martina, a long-standing Italian Arsenal Women supporter,who accepted a role within The Clock End Italia Crew to cover anything related to Joe Montemurro’s side.
I feel that Women’s football should get more coverage and more attention, especially in Italy, where football supporters aren’t known for being particularly open-minded. I can’t say whether this is a global football-world issue or a very local one but any comments left to any content related to women’s football are derisive, at best, when not straight sexist.
Along with the evergreen “women belong to the kitchen” joke – so hilarious and original, if you ask me – the second most-popular dig aimed at female footballers states that women’s football is not football.
Before the UEFA Women’s Champions League game between the Gunners and PSG, I remember watching bits of games during the 2019 World Cup, the competition that truly made women’s football mainstream, although for a short period; I remember watching Italy defeating the mighty Australia and other minutes here and there, mainly to watch Vivianne Miedema, Daniëlle van de Donk or Beth Mead.
Last night, while covering the game live commentary and players ratings for my Italian blog, I watched my first full game, from the build-up until the post-game interviews.
I don’t need to confirm to you that women’s football is football, indeed.
Tactically, technically and physically, it was a proper game, a better game compared to many Serie A or League Cup or even Premier League games I watched in over 30 years.
I watched Kim Little fighting to shield the ball and evade pressure the same way Jack Wilshere used to do, with the same low centre of gravity and superb use of his lower-body strength; I watched Leah Williamson, Jen Beattie and Manuela Zinsberger play out from the back to invite the pressure from PSG and find spaces behind the first line of pressing, the same way the men’s team were doing in the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City; I watched a few last-ditch tackles, lots of great skills across the field and some proper scruffs – although Daniëlle van de Donk was unusually quiet.
I saw more composure and tactical awareness from the Arsenal and PSG teams than the men’s team under Unai Emery, where games were so stretched that defense, midfield and attack were 30 yards apart from each other; I watched both teams studying each other in the opening minutes, before PSG took the initiative and our girls ended-up defending in their final third, then I saw Joe Montemurro’s side reacting to being 0-1 down and pushing higher on the pitch, forcing PSG in their own tranches.
It was no improvisation, it was coincidence but it was a tactical plan, that ultimately wasn’t 100% right but kept the team very much in the tie for over one hour; PSG were physically on a different level and it showed, ultimately, but what I watched was a proper game from the kick-off until the final whistle.
I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest, but I left my uneducated eyes wide-open and my mind unbiased enough to be able to process what I was seeing in the most objective way.
This is all it takes, a minimal effort.
For what I understood, the other night’s wasn’t the best Arsenal Women’s performance and not playing competitive football for so long was a big factor, however all that my uneducated eyes saw was an Arsenal team trying hard, sticking to a game-plan and give its all to get their ticket to the Champions League semi-finals, before falling short, eventually.
This, to me, is football. I wouldn’t know how to call it otherwise.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.