More than 60,700 people turned out to see a soccer game between Atlético Madrid and Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid on Sunday – the largest turnout for a soccer match between female clubs the world has ever seen.
The stadium, which can house 67,829 spectators, was almost entirely filled as 60,739 came to watch the two teams battle it out in the quarterfinals of the Copa de la Reina. Barcelona won 2-0 but Atlético is still ahead of the team by three points on the leaders board.
Not since 1920 have so many people turned up to watch a soccer game between female clubs
But the real winner on Sunday was women’s soccer. According to Atlético’s website, not since 1920 have so many people turned out to watch a soccer game between female clubs. This 99-year-old record was set on Boxing Day (an English tradition whereby soccer matches are played on December 26), when 53,000 spectators gathered in Goodison Park in Liverpool in the United Kingdom to watch a game between Dick, Kerr’s Ladies and St. Helen’s Ladies. In 1921, the English Football Association (FA) banned women’s matches, deeming soccer an “unsuitable sport for women.”
In terms of national teams, the world record for the biggest turnout for a female soccer game was set at the 1999 World Cup match between the United States and China, with 90,185 spectators attending the game.
The massive turnout to Sunday’s match highlights the growing popularity of women’s soccer in Spain. It comes after over 48,000 people turned up to see Athletic Bilbao and Atlético Madrid play against each other in the San Mamés stadium in Bilbao in February.
In the lead up to the match, Barcelona and Atlético had rallied fans to attend the event. On Wednesday, Atlético announced that tickets had sold out. Despite this, people still went to ticket offices on the morning of the match in hopes of getting to see the game.
The Hall of Legends
In an effort to encourage the growing popularity of women’s soccer in Spain, Atlético for the first time has included female players in its Hall of Legends at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, a space that honors the players who have appeared in 100 official team matches. The honor has been bestowed to Atlético players Amanda Sampedro (103 matches), Silvia Meseguer (102) and Ángela Sosa (101).
“Let’s go Atlético Femenino,” was the chant that greeted the players when they appeared on the pitch on Sunday. Spurred on by the spectators’ support, the team was aggressive from the very start. Not a moment had passed before they had created a great opportunity to score, but their efforts were foiled when the Barcelona goalkeeper deflected the ball. For the first 15 minutes, Atlético dominated the match, putting pressure on Barcelona and recovering the ball quickly.
As the game progressed, Barcelona started to gain control of the game. Atlético played more conservatively in the second half while Barcelona became more aggressive, allowing Nigerian forward Asisat Oshoala to score in the 65th minute.
In the last 10 minutes of the game, a header from Atlético striker Esther González ended up bouncing against her own team and falling at the feet of Barcelona forward Toni Duggan, who scored. While the victory – which places Barcelona only three points behind Atlético with six matches still to go – is important for the team, the real triumph is the number of people in the stands who gave standing ovations for both teams as they walked off the field.
A victory for women’s soccer
According to Barcelona coach Lluis Cortés, the match was a great victory for women's soccer. "I think it's an incredible figure. I have spent many years in this profession and have been in fields with only 20 or 30 people in the stands, with only the families and no one else. To be in a situation like this is very rewarding for the players, for the staff, for everyone," he said.
Atlético captain Silvia Meseguer said it was disappointing to lose the match but said she now has the "unforgettable feeling of playing in front of 60,000 people."
English version by Asia London Palomba.