From a record-breaking, history-making European Championship to huge strides for equal pay and everything in between, 2017 was a great year in the game.
As it turns out, there’s really an audience for this women’s football thing — and as it turns out, the quality provided to that said audience continues to rise. Here’s a quick wrap-up of what this year looked like in the women’s game.
In the international game, on-field we saw by far the best Women’s Euros final to date, let alone a fantastic rest of a tournament that smashed viewership records and turned the Netherlands into, unquestionably, a women’s football country. Their national team won a hard-fought final 4-2 in front of the biggest audience women’s football has ever seen in the Netherlands, and their Lieke Martens was crowned FIFA’s The Best Women’s Player of the year.
Off field, we saw a historic equal pay agreement between Norway’s international teams that saw the men give up part of their salaries in order to ensure that the women were paid fairly. (And Norway didn’t even make it out of the Euros group stage; imagine if runners-up Denmark were also paid fairly, instead of having friendlies cancelled because of pay disputes?)
On the domestic stage, we’ve had the pleasure of watching Manchester City Women and Chelsea women absolutely tear up the Women’s Super League, both heading into their highly anticipated Cup match in January on undefeated seasons. Arsenal Women rebranded, dropping the ‘Ladies’ in order to assume a more equal and progressive identity. And the brand new Liga MX Femenil, founded in order to bolster the women’s national team — who’s ready for the U.S.-Mexico rivalry to come to the women’s game? — wildly exceeded expectations, both in attendance and in quality.
And on our shelves, Gwendolyn Oxenham shared some of women’s football’s most uncomfortable secrets, in an attempt to bring to light some of the lesser-known struggles that women face, while two BBC journalists brought us the first-ever Women’s Football Yearbook.
To take off the rose-colored glasses for a half second, there were certainly hiccups along the way. We lost an NWSL team (albeit before we gained another) due to poor management following a sexist scandal; women’s players largely still struggle to make football a full-time job despite men’s salaries skyrocketing higher than belief; plenty of tabloids featured Women’s Euros players’ bikini-clad Instagram photos as their ‘tournament previews’; Notts County Ladies folded; the Wolfsburg Women were barred from celebrating their domestic double because the men’s team wasn’t up to snuff.
But all in all, huge strides were taken that set the game up for a bigger and better 2018, in the run up to the 2019 Women’s World Cup. The international performances from 2017’s She Believes Cup and European Championships make the next competition extra alluring, and the rise of quality domestic leagues and teams beyond the usual dominant few give us plenty of good women’s football to watch until then.
Here’s to 2017.