Sunday 23rd November 2014 ko 15.00
Women’s International Friendly
GERMANY 3 (A Scott 6og Sasic 12 45)
Att 45,619 at Wembley Stadium
It’s a fact of my footballing life that I don’t watch nearly enough women’s football. My cause in that respect was aided when a league I work with offered two Club Wembley seats, and I pondered how to get to the national stadium with the Jubilee, and Metropolitan tube lines closed for planned engineering work.
With the “New” Wembley being opened in 2007 it does seem odd that this was the first women’s match to be played here. It’s not as if the demand wasn’t demonstrably there, during the 2012 Olympics, Team GB beat Brazil 1-0 here in front of 70,584 fans! And seeing the scars of the recent NFL game still disfiguring the pitch, it seems a major aberration that the FA has prioritised America’s national game ahead of our own. Still, the important thing now it that the correct thing has happened, however late.
And I do wonder how many would have been there if all the public transport connections had have been in place. The official car parks were “discounted” to £15, which I took advantage of, but it did take 2 hours to travel the 50-or-so miles in from Oxford. When you consider that the parking can be as much as £60 I do wonder if bothering to provide drainage is too much to ask? I parked up and stepped straight into a 10 car-length puddle!
The FA sold 55,000 tickets, baulked at selling more when they realised the traffic chaos the engineering works would cause and in the end 10,000 didn’t turn up, presumably put off by either the traffic or the weather. Many turned up well after kick-off, and afterwards I only just made a 7.30pm restaurant reservation in Henley-on-Thames, just 35 miles away.
Still there is a frission when you enter the ground via the Club Wembley entrance and climb to the mezzanine level via a series of escalators, and despite my seat being in a corner, the view was excellent. However what is similar throughout the stadium is the ridiculous prices for food and drink. I accept that prices will be at a premium, but £5.20 for a pie? That said enough people bought to suggest that given the location they’ll tolerate the costs.
Now I know I watch a lot of football. Now you’ve stopped sniggering, the women’s game does attract an almost completely different clientele. If I get comps for the Vase Final I expect to share my block with League officials, the blazers as I call them! Here, the crowd was much younger, and far more predominantly female. The crowd noise was far higher pitched, and far less used to watching a game here. When I bought my programme from the concession stall there appeared to be a huge queue. It quickly transpired it was teenage girls deciding which England hat to buy!
And that is where the true power of having women’s football at Wembley lies. Here was a generation of young women with positive role models in front of them. No size-zero, no auto-tune, no air-brush. Please, the FA, don’t wait another 7 years before repeating the exercise.
I loved the naivety of the crowd; early on there was almost a pantomime feel, as a huge roar saw Jordan Nobbs hit the crossbar for England seconds after kick-off, and when the Germans regained possession they were roundly booed! Sadly for the young audience German possession was to be a running theme throughout the rest of the game.
For you got the impression that if Germany had wanted to win by more, then they would have done. A corner was headed into her own net by Alex Scott with Simone Laudehr is close attendance. Appalling England defending at the half-way line saw Celia Sasic race clear before slotting underneath Karen Bardsley in the England goal with minimum fuss. She scored again in first-half stoppage time, heading home Tabea Kemme’s cross.
England huffed and puffed during the second half, but save for Jill Scott firing into the side netting when a cross would have been the better option, the Germans looked comfortable.
Perhaps this was an afternoon where the occasion was more important than the result. In six months England will be at the World Cup, but beforehand there’s another friendly against another behemoth of the women’s game – the USA. Hopefully that too can be played at Wembley Stadium.