The new top flight of women’s soccer in England, the FA WSL, kicked-off on Wednesday with two match. Arsenal Ladies, which has built a worldwide reputation after winning the quadruple in 2007, defeated rival Chelsea 1-0 in front of 2,510 fans. Gilly Flaherty’s 33rd minute goal stood as the winner.
Elsewhere, a Vicky Exley goal just before halftime gave Doncaster Rovers Belles a 1-0 victory over the Lincoln Ladies in front of a more modest crows of 750 people. Thursday’s fixtures feature Everton visiting Liverpool in the women’s version of the Mercyside Derby and Bristol Academy Ladies visit Birmingham City.
England manager Hope Powell said she is hopeful that the FA WSL raises the English national team to the top of the world in women’s soccer. That will not happen instantly, but it is no surprise that countries with top domestic leagues – the United States, Germany and Sweden, for example – also consistently produce dominating national teams.
“This is an incredibly exciting year for women’s football in the country, but if you were to ask me what our ambitions are, well, we want to be a Germany,” Powell told FIFA.com. “We want to be the leading nation in women’s football. Germany inspires us and we want to surpass them in the future.”
However, not everyone viewed the league’s launch as grand. Barney Ronay at The Guardian provided what might best be noted as a confused take on the atmosphere of the game, citing lots of off-field commotion but not enough on-field quality. For all the glitz and glamor of the launch, the FA WSL needs “to assert its basic quality,” Ronay writes. The pitch was also in tough shape at Tooting & Mitcham’s Imperial Fields, the site of the Arsenal-Chelsea match.
Read Ronay’s full piece here and take in the tone for yourself. Clearly, some the FA WSL will have some critics to win over, but that is nothing new for any women’s sports league. Also check out this BBC piece asking whether or not women’s soccer will become mainstream in 2011.
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