Atleti and Barça lead the way, while we wait for Real Madrid

Nearly 15,000 people turned out on Sunday lunchtime to watch the Atlético Madrid and Barcelona women’s teams play. The date will go down as another milestone in the advancement of Spanish women’s football, which has battling for years for recognition, rowing against the current. I remember the game’s difficult early years in Spain, when the pioneering Conchi Sánchez, “Conchi Amancio,” was forced to leave these shores to become a professional in Italy, against a backdrop of sneering caricatures and a film, “Las Ibéricas,” featuring the great cinematic beauties of the era, an absurd tale of boyfriends and jealousy.

In those days, any female who wanted to play football was liable to be considered a tomboy. And that was the case for a long time. Today, women can play football, and while they do so at the very least without reproach, they still face considerable difficulty. But the thread of progress, championed by Fifa, (which has done lots of good work but it remains a shame that they were so stingy with the till), has seen women’s football in Spain reach almost level par with other countries that started out earlier. The women’s LaLiga has started to become a serious and formal competition, under the auspices of LFP chief Javier Tebas and power company Iberdrola, and with three televised games a week on Gol.

Of course, it has not yet reached the level where women’s football can occupy the country’s bigger stadiums week in week out, but Athletic have for some time been opening up San Mamés for their women’s team, as have Levante at the Ciutat de Valencia while Barcelona Femení play at the Miniestadi, which is a positive trend. Atlético on Sunday took advantage of the visit of Barcelona, with the league leadership in play, to open the Calderón to Atlético Féminas. There was a healthy crowd on a sunny morning and the fans enjoyed themselves, because women’s football is no clumsy imitation, it is football played to a high standard and mercifully, for now at least, free of the anti-sporting behaviour so prevalent in the men’s game. Let’s see now if one day Real Madrid are motivated to join the party.