Anne Pochert knew it was going to be brutal in the club’s first Bundesliga season.
“It’s going to be really difficult to stay up, but not impossible,” Pochert told DW before her side would go on to lose 5-0 in Potsdam.
Her assessment was optimistic, but it also reflects the gloomy situation that many newly promoted sides face in their quest to avoid relegation from the Bundesliga. After all, “not impossible” isn’t far away from “highly unlikely.”
Jena were not taken apart in their debut, but despite a strong performance they suffered a 3-0 loss. This team is determined to keep being brave.
“We aim to hold our own and play attractive football. We don’t want to sit deep and look not to concede a goal, but rather play attacking football, quickly working through the space,” Pochert said of her playing philosophy.
She wanted her team to show more maturity on the second weekend of the season, and to be more composed. Against Turbine Potsdam though, the opposite happened.
Two games played, eight goals conceded, second-last in the table is not where Jena would have wanted to be at this point, but the team still has a lot of time left to learn. How the club maintains a desire to play attractive football in the face of increasing pressure will be interesting to watch.
The biggest problems are a symptom of the huge gap in quality between the first and second divisions.
“My feeling is that the gap has widened,” Pochert said. “The financial means of the bigger clubs are growing due to increasing investment from men’s (professional) clubs. And when you look at how the DFB (German Football Association) distributes funds, you can see that the financial gap is increasing. A regional (third tier) side can hold its own in the second division, but if a second-division team gets promoted, it’s usually the first side to be relegated.”
Jena, who nearly folded as FF USV, has recently received a boost in the form of its association with Carl Zeiss Jena, whose men’s team currently play in the fourth-tier Regionalliga Nordost. They are now in calmer financial waters, and the women’s team also benefits from the infrastructure, video analysis and general professional facilities on offer. Nevertheless, Carl Zeiss Jena is a far cry from Bayern Munich.
Pochert, like almost everyone else, believes the solution lies in more investment from men’s clubs. But the effect so far has been contradictory. From a sporting perspective, at first the added investment means the gap starts to close, but soon individual clubs begin to receive even more money and there’s little to stop the power of a small, controlling elite. A long-term solution this is not.
What about Jena? Despite all of the hurdles in their way, the club is aiming to establish itself in mid-table “so that by the halfway point in the season we can say we’re safe from relegation and can start squad planning. We want to give lots of young players a chance,” Pochert said. “That’s not possible when you’re always fighting against relegation.”
Pochert is ambitious, but the task she faces is a very tough one indeed.
Top group settles
As expected, last season’s top three of Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim have yet to drop points after the first two games of the season. Eintracht Frankfurt struggled against Freiburg, but Essen has started surprisingly well. In a largely weak contest in Leverkusen, Essen played the better football and came away with a 2-1 win to move up to fifth in the table.
Quota at St. Pauli
St. Pauli has agreed a new rule that will require at least 30% of the members of the supervisory board, the presidency, honorary council and election committee to be made up of women. The innovation could have a slow domino effect, despite the inertia of association football.
The same is true for equal pay, where the Irish FA has taken a step forward by agreeing to immediately pay its women’s team the same as the men. Captain Katie McCabe called it a “huge day for Irish football.”
Champions and #MeToo in Iceland
Most European leagues are just getting started, but in Iceland, the season is almost over. Due to the climate there, Iceland’s women’s league plays during the summer months. With one game to go, Valur Reykjavík has already been crowned champions, with the team made up almost entirely of Icelanders having opened up a 9-point lead over fellow powerhouses Breidablik. Since 1977, two thirds of the titles have been won by either of the two teams.
Rather than the culmination of the season being the highlight, though, the country is engulfed in a #MeToo scandal after the FA reportedly covered up sexual assault committed by a member of the men’s national team. The entire executive committee resigned over the scandal.