A trailblazer of women’s football in Spain, having guided her country to European Championship and World Cup appearances, Veronica Boquete is thrilled with the heights that this movement has reached across the world. The Spanish player spoke to Gianluca Lia about impact she hopes this tournament can have on the future of women’s football…

The US have clinched their fourth Women’s World Cup after a spectacular run which saw them eliminate the best European teams on French soil en route to the Lyon final where they had the better off the Netherlands.

The US are the Mecca of women’s football. They are the most successful team in a World Cup, won the Olympic gold medal on four occasions besides lifting several other international titles.

While the United States seem to be head and shoulders above the rest, the European region produced a strong showing, with three teams making it into the semi-finals.

This result is testament of the investment European associations are doing in the women’s game, exploiting this market at the right time amid ever-growing interest.

Ten years ago, the Champions League was still named UEFA Women’s Cup and very few men clubs had women teams by their side.

The revenue generated by the women’s game was fairly low and FIFA and UEFA were yet to embark on long-term projects in order to make this sport grow.

Veronica Boquete, one of the best Spanish players ever to grace a football field, was surprised by the rapid interest in the women’s game, in particular in the last few years.

A decade ago, Boquete was part of Spain’s team that faced Malta in the 2011 Women’s World Cup qualifiers – scoring in both the 13-0 and 9-0 wins registered by La Roja.

“Ten years ago it was difficult for us to because we did not have the right conditions in order to be professional players,” Boquete told Times of Malta.

“During my playing days it would have been a dream to see the women’s game in such a healthy state. Surely, I never imagined that it would take such a short time to reach these heights, especially given the course it took in the past four years from which the women’s game has benefitted a lot.

“The European game is improving particularly because the big clubs are putting money  in the women’s game and that is important because these teams already have a solid foundation, so that would further enhance the identity of the women’s teams.”

For Boquete, having big European clubs involved in women’s football is crucial because they would inject more money while providing better facilities for female players.

A major game changer in the women’s game could be the introduction of Real Madrid, a club with an illustrious history in the men’s side and who have now set their sights on making an impact in the women’s game.

Los Blancos have bought Spanish club Tacon and will start to play as a rebranded team as from the 2020-21 campaign.

“I am very pleased with the news about Real Madrid, in particular, because it is happening in my country and it has caught the headlines across the world,” Boquete said.

“Teams like Real Madrid and Manchester United are two clubs who have a huge following and their fans always want to see them in action. So having these clubs represented by a women’s team will boost the image of the game.

“European football has also left its mark on national teams in South America with Argentina and Chile, who boast of players who feature in leagues across the Old Continent, in particular in Spain. They have put on some very solid displays and that is testament of their development.”

Throughout her career, Boquete played with clubs who existed specifically in the women’s game only such as Germany’s Frankfurt as well as teams who formed part of established men’s clubs, such as Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

Asked on which was the best scenario, Boquete had a clear opinion.

“Having the men’s and women’s teams in a club working with each other can have huge benefits, especially in Europe because the culture of football is rooted in our continent with many teams having strong fan bases and that makes it easier for female players to be identified by the clubs fans,” the former PSG and Bayern player said.

Boquete feels that this year’s Women’s World Cup will trigger the member associations to invest more.

“I think the member associations are realising the package that the women’s game brings with it, in particular in terms of business and entertainment because it can be also a profitable market,” the former Espanyol player said.

“UEFA and FIFA are working a lot to take this game into another level and we are already seeing their projects paying dividends.

“I think FIFA did a good job with this World Cup. I was part of the FIFA Legends programme and we have been working on it for a very long time in order to reach as much audience as possible throughout our promotions.”

One of the biggest flaws in the women’s game right now is the lack of proper league structures in various nations across the world and financial regulation, in particular when it comes to investment and salaries.

“Well, we have to start and treat the women’s game as a proper job and set norms and rules by which the member associations can regulate their competitions,” Boquete warned.

“I can see the lack of proper regulation is in women sports in general, but when it comes to football we need to enhance more norms than the rest.

“For example, the players in Spain are currently pursuing a collective bargaining agreement that would move the league a step closer towards becoming a professional one while it helps clubs set minimum salaries, which most of the clubs do not have.”

Youth inspiration

A highlight from this Women’s World Cup was Marta’s heartfelt speech after Brazil’s exit at the hands of France.

In a post-game presser, Marta urged the young girls around the world to embrace this movement and challenged them to be the face of the game in the future.

Having played with her at Tyreso in Sweden, and currently opponents in the United States, Boquete was emotional when she saw her former team-mate’s comments.

“I understood her message very well because I speak Portuguese and to be honest, we discuss this situation a lot when we face each other in the United States,” she said.

“The current generation is luckier than we were and we want them to be aware of the improvement that is happening around them and not take it lightly, because we have fought so hard to transform our dreams into reality.

“I hope that this World Cup has served to help young footballers across the world to identify with the world’s best players and at the same time also help in the fight against female discrimination in today’s society.”

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