For the first time in history, the German Football Association (DFB) has included twelve female former players to be recognised in the country’s Hall of Fame.
The recognition was granted to twelve women who helped shape women’s football in Germany, and those chosen were awarded at a ceremony in Dortmund. The likes of Silvia Neid, Silke Rottenberg, Steffi Jones, Nia Künzer, Renate Lingor, Bettina Wiegmann, Inka Grings and Tina Theune all received an award to acknowledge the work they’d done for the women’s game.
The ceremony came at a momentous time, with next year marking 50 years since the ban on women’s football in Germany was overturned by DFB. Following the eradication of the ban, it then took another 12 years for a women’s national team to be formed in 1982 and since then, Germany’s female footballers have experienced many exceptional achievements.
Throughout the night, those collecting their awards spoke of the need for “increased recognition” of female footballers as well as highlighting the positive growth of the game. In attendance was one of the unofficial women’s teams, Fortuna Dortmund, who opposed the DFB’s ban in the 1950s.
Talking to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the former players explained that “despite rejection from society and football’s institutions, they counted on the support of family, friends and their community, to pursue their passion for the sport.”
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Although having only formed a national team seven years prior, Germany’s first taste of success came in 1989 when they became European Champions on home soil in West Germany. The semi-final against Italy was the first international women’s fixture to be shown on live German television. The side then went onto beat Norway in the final in front of 22,000 fans.
Since their first tournament win in ’89, Germany Women have won eight European titles as well as two World Cups, making them one of the most successful female national teams in history.
Bettina Wiegmann received her Hall of Fame call-up and helped Germany win four European Championships during her career. The former midfielder stressed that women’s football in Germany cannot be compared to that in the U.S. “The US is ahead of us because [football] is the number one sport for women there,” Wiegmann explained. “In Germany, I think men’s football will always be at the top.” Despite her comments, the 48-year-old did acknowledge that women’s football in Germany is growing at a successful rate.
Former goalkeeper Silke Rottenburg also spoke at the ceremony in agreement with Wiegmann. “We are on a different path… and what we have in Germany cannot be compared with the U.S.” She also commented on the gender pay gap in German football, explaining that German women “still don’t dream of making the same money as the men because that’s totally unrealistic.”
Although a cause for celebration, the Hall of Fame ceremony allowed former players to highlight their concerns for the future of the game, with most in agreement that more needs to be done to help female footballers flourish. However, the new president of DFB, Fritz Keller, spoke positively of his commitment to developing the women’s game in Germany. “Anyone who does not watch and is not involved in women’s football, I say: This is a mistake,” he said.