Germany – the birthplace of women’s soccer

Spirited argument and debate is the basis of any good sporting event. Who is the best, the fastest, the first, the highest, the strongest, the smartest, you name it.

It’s generally agreed that men’s soccer, known everywhere in the world other than the US as football, began in England in the 1860s.  In the world of women’s soccer, which draws a global audience bigger than the Super Bowl in the U.S., it’s generally agreed that the game really gained a foothold (pun intended) in Germany. But was it in Dresden or Frankfurt?

women's soccer

 

Now some may shrug their shoulders as if it doesn’t matter at all.  Yeah, well that shows how much you don’t know.  Women’s soccer is called the new Super League. In the U.S., more than 3.5 million girls below the age of 19 play soccer. The NCAA says women’s soccer is the fastest growing intercollegiate sport in the US with more than 486 teams and growing each year.

Women’s Soccer in Germany

In Frankfurt, locals point with pride to the Steinernes Haus near the Old Town center at Braubachstraße 35.  The building has withstood the tests of time for 500 years, and the last 100 years as a restaurant. It’s a great place for authentic Frankfurter Green Sauce with hard-boiled eggs and appelwine.

In the 1950s, this was one of the few restaurants that allowed women to gather unescorted by a gentleman companion. The butcher’s daughter was a sports enthusiast and quite athletic. She launched the movement for women’s sports in Germany.

It sounded like a reasonable explanation to us and we had no need to doubt the story until we were enjoying a conversation with new friends in Dresden. Over a plate of sauerbraten and potato dumplings at Sophienkeller, a riotously fun restaurant that recreates a dining hall from the 14th century, we mentioned the story told to us in Frankfurt.

Our hosts almost spewed their pilsner in our faces.  “Aaach, we’ve been playing women’s soccer in Saxony since the 1920s.”  The story included something about mandatory public fitness classes – I admit I didn’t understand the whole thing, but since this city had been communist-controlled for almost 30 years, I had visions of the harsh, disciplined marks of the East German judges from the Olympics, and well, it didn’t seem worth pushing the point.

women's soccerLater we toured the Dresden soccer stadium. It’s in a delightful park-like setting where biergartens, concerts and festivals contribute to the energy of the place.

In all fairness, the Commerzbank Stadium in Frankfurt, locally called the Forest Stadium, is also a great place to watch women’s soccer, as well as the planes landing at nearby Frankfurt am Main Airport. A very cool thing in Frankfurt – tickets to events at the Commerzbank Stadium always include free public transportation. While drinking is encouraged (it is Germany after all), driving afterwards is not.

Maybe someday someone will definitely decide who first started playing organized women’s soccer, but really who cares, as long as they are playing and fans are cheering.  


 

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