In a defining moment for women’s sport, a staggering 91,553 fans descended on Camp Nou, Europe’s biggest football stadium, to watch the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid. It’s the highest attendance ever for a women’s soccer game, even bigger than at this year’s Super Bowl (70,048). The majority of the fans who came to watch the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final were Barcelona supporters and they saw their side defeat Real Madrid 5-2 to secure a place in the semi-finals, a reported CNN. Barcelona and Real Madrid have had a strong rivalry for decades and their clashes are dubbed ‘El Classico’. The crowd held up a huge mosaic that read: ‘More than empowerment’.
“I’m speechless. It’s a dream come true. I can only respond with more work, getting better and winning games so we can give them a great show,” said Alexia Putellas of Barcelona, the best female player last year. “I’ve seen a lot of girls, kids with that sparkle in their eyes. It’s amazing to be part of history.” Barcelona striker Caroline Graham Hansen said it was surreal. “The fans [are] don’t go home, they just stay to celebrate with us. I never imagined anything like it and it’s just goosebumps all over the place,” Hansen said. “They sang the whole game and it was amazing. It’s something I never dreamed of and here today we did it. I hope this isn’t the last time we do this.”
The record of 91,553 fans who watched the match in Spain surpassed the previous record of 60,739 who watched Atletico Madrid take on Barcelona at their home stadium, the Metropolitano, in 2019. Camp Nou attendance also dwarfs the world record for any women’s match. , which was 90,195 when the United States beat China in the Women’s World Cup Final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California in 1999. Although it was a win for Barcelona , the occasion was celebrated by all of women’s football. US Women’s National Team superstar Megan Rapinoe tweeted, “Team worthy crowd on the court! Love to see it.” The Barcelona women’s team are also on a historic run this season, having won all of their 25 league matches so far. Second-placed Real Sociedad have won 18 games. Barcelona have reached the Champions League semi-finals after beating Real Madrid and will face Wolfsburg.
The popularity of women’s football grew rapidly and led to growing calls for equal pay for men and women. As we reported, earlier this year, the United States women’s soccer team won a historic battle for equal pay. The United States Soccer Federation announced the decision after reaching a $24 million settlement with players who sued the governing body. “For us, this is just a huge win in making sure we not only right the wrongs of the past, but also prepare the next generation for something we only dreamed of,” said Megan Rapinoe, who was the one of the players who had sued. “We’re really in the midst of an incredible turning point in women’s sports,” Rapinoe said. “If you’re not paying attention to that right now and what’s going on in women’s sport, you’re sleeping on all of that.”
The pay disparity is huge, with FIFA awarding $400 million in prize money to the 32 teams in the 2018 Men’s World Cup while only awarding $30 million to the 24 teams in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. the men’s world champions received $38 million in prize money in 2018, while the USA women’s soccer team only received $4 million. “US Soccer has agreed to equalize prize money in the future, obviously we’re calling on FIFA to really equalize that for the men’s and women’s tournaments,” said star player Alex Morgan. “That’s really what we set out to do. To equalize on all fronts. It’s a proud moment for all of us.