Pushing Forward: How PSG Féminine is Driving the Development of Female Football in France and Beyond

In May 2010, the Paris Saint-Germain Féminine lifted their first major trophy: the French Cup, beating Montpellier 5-0. That victory kicked off the most successful decade in the team’s history. Founded in 1971 – only a year after the male section – Les Parisiennes reached the top flight in 2001 following their Division 2 Féminine victory.

A Decade of Growth

In the last 10 years, the women won their second Coupe de France in 2018, reached the UEFA Women’s Champions League final twice, and finished second in Division 1 Féminine a total of seven times. Along with Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, PSG makes up the Big Two of the league.

Even though at the close of the decade, Division 1 title remains elusive and the team has suffered a loss in the 2020 French Cup to archrival Lyon, things are looking up once again.

PSG Féminines reached the semi-final of UEFA Women’s Champions League, coached by former Ligue 1 midfielder Olivier Echouafni. On the domestic front, they recorded three victories in three pre-season matches and look forward to breaking Lyon’s dominance in the league during the upcoming 2020-2021 season.

Crossover Fan Support

The female PSG squad plays at the 20,000-seat Stade Jean-Bouin, located next to the larger Parc des Princes in Paris’ 16th arrondissement, home ground of the world-famous male team.

It is not uncommon to see PSG fan groups in attendance at women’s matches, a rare occurrence in football. While initially, it was a result of the groups not being able to attend matches at the Parc between 2010 and 2016, the support continues today to varying degrees.

Despite the success of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, which had an average attendance of 21,756 per match, French female club football continues to lag behind men.

In the 2019-2020 season, Division 1 Féminine attracted just 1,084 per match on average, compared to 22,463 for men. However, the clash between the female Paris and Lyon teams was witnessed by 30,661 spectators. Also, the 2017 Champions League semifinal between PSG Féminines and Barcelona drew a record crowd of 19,192 and was attended by PSG ultras.

Could the attendance spike and fan crossover be a sign of things to come for female football? What makes PSG Féminine stand out from other teams and move the women’s game along?

The Club’s Backing

PSG Féminine is owned by Qatar Sports Investments, a key player in the French sports market, who was responsible for famously signing the Brazillian star Neymar Jr. from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain on a record transfer of $263 million in 2017.

According to Canadian forward, 19-year-old Jordyn Huitema, the key to PSG Féminine’s success going forward is the support they get from staff and the high quality of facilities.

“We are given everything we need to be the best players we can be,” she says. “They supply us with great facilities, a strength room, and any pieces of equipment you can possibly use. I think that’s a key to success when you are looking to develop as a player, especially a young player like myself. I knew coming in here that I would have the resources and support.”

PSG Féminine’s Alana Cook, the 23-year-old American defender, echoes Huitema’s sentiments. “The women’s program here at PSG is run phenomenally. I think it will be hard to find many more clubs in the world to treat the women’s program as they do here: the facilities, the excellent attention we’re given, and the coaching staff in this immersive program.”

Beyond Club Football

As the football world is emerging from the coronavirus pandemic, fans can look forward to the return of league matches and the Champions League, as well as the Summer Olympics in Tokyo (originally scheduled for July-August 2020, the games have been postponed to March 2021).

PSG Féminine’s Jordyn Huitema scored seven goals for Canada in the Olympic tournament qualifiers. When asked about the future of female football after the World Cup and heading into the Tokyo Olympics, she referenced the progress that has been made since the last Women’s World Cup, including more male fans in attendance. “The fan base is growing and women’s football is progressing, that’s exactly what we need. I think the 2020 Olympics are going to be another key moment to push forward. I’m super excited to see what will happen.”

The 2020-2021 Division1 Féminine season is set to start on September 5, 2020. PSG Féminine’s official website (in English).

This article originally appeared on Rebel Girls.

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Tags Alana Cook Division 1 Féminine Jordyn Huitema Olympique Lyonnais Féminin PSG Féminine UEFA Women's Champions League
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