Monday 27 July 2020, 05:01

As one era draws to a close in Germany, another begins

  • 1. FFC Frankfurt’s final Bundesliga match marked the end of an era

  • The pioneering German club were a powerhouse in Germany and in Europe

  • Schalke 04 sets up its own women’s football department

28 June 2020 was a special day for 1. FFC Frankfurt, as the club played its last match in the Women’s Bundesliga. The game signalled the end of an era for Germany’s most successful women’s football club after seven championship titles, nine DFB Women’s Cup wins and four UEFA Women’s Champions League triumphs.

Birgit Prinz, Nadine Angerer, Saskia Bartusiak, Melanie Behringer, Nia Kunzer and Steffi Jones are just some of the big names to have pulled on the Frankfurt jersey over the years.

Yet the club’s merger with Eintracht Frankfurt ushers in a whole new chapter. From next season onwards, 1. FFC will become Eintracht’s women’s football department and compete in the Bundesliga under the Eintracht Frankfurt name. The two parties signed a merger agreement to this effect in mid-June 2019.

The newly-formed club is hoping to tap into old successes by combining its women’s and girls’ football activities. FFC last won the league back in 2008 and lifted their last major trophy in 2015 when they defeated Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in the final of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

"I’m extremely happy and thankful that the 'marriage contract' with Eintracht Frankfurt has now been signed after a long and extremely focused period of preparation," said long-serving FFC manager Siegfried Dietrich on the club’s website.

"After more than two decades of success for FFC, it is a dream come true for us to be able to add not only our expertise but also our staff, members and fans to this big Eintracht family and settle into our impressive new home at just the right time.

"Yet signing the merger agreement is also a historic and pioneering moment that not only gives our life’s work a future full of new goals but will also send out a compelling message when it comes to German women’s club football and the competitive appeal of the Women’s Bundesliga.

"Although there is certainly a touch of wistfulness about the transition and the emotions around playing our last few matches in the FFC shirt, the excitement we feel about our new targets and this new age of women’s football in Frankfurt is so much greater."

Plans to strengthen the squad are already in full swing. Germany international goalkeeper Merle Frohms is moving to the banks of the Main from SC Freiburg, while Slovenia international Lara Prasnikar arrives from Turbine Potsdam. FFC’s second-division side, who were unable to finish their season due to the coronavirus pandemic, have also resumed training – in Eintracht kits.

"The inaugural season will be a very special one, as it’s the start of something new," said coach Kim Kulig. "The anticipation has been massive for weeks, and now to wear the eagle on our chests really does mean stepping into a new chapter."

Schalke look to new horizons

This pioneering spirit is not only evident in Frankfurt but in Gelsenkirchen too, and specifically at FC Schalke 04, where the club is keen to establish an entire women’s and girls’ football setup. They are "starting small" at Schalke and do not expect to compete with the existing women’s football departments of other clubs. As a result, the club will have a women’s team in the Kreisliga B regional league and an U-17 team in the Kreisliga.

The man responsible for this project is Bodo Menze, former founder and head of Schalke’s Knappenschmiede youth academy. "My attitude to women’s football has shifted over time," he explained.

"Most recently, the performances at the last Women’s World Cup really impressed and excited me. I also think it’s extremely relevant for society – including when it comes to grassroots sport. I shared the idea of establishing a women’s football department some time ago, which is why I’m now so pleased to be supporting this project," Menze explained on the Schalke website.

Exciting times lie ahead for women’s football – and not only in Germany, where six clubs now have top-flight women’s and men’s teams. Real Madrid will also field a women’s side in Spain’s top tier for the first time next season...