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The Rise of Spanish Women’s Football

The rise of the Spanish women's football team to World Cup glory in 2023 is not just a tale of sporting triumph but also a narrative of significant advancements in both the cultural perception and the structural development of women's football.

How Spain’s Women Changed the Game?

Their triumph in 2023 marked a turning point in the perception and status of women’s football in Spain, a narrative of overcoming long-standing challenges to reach the zenith of global football. This victory was not just a result of exceptional skill and strategy on the pitch, but also a reflection of a cultural shift within Spain, a transformation to recognition and respect.

IMAGO/Pacific Press Agency
IMAGO / Pacific Press Agency / Hugo Ortuno | Spain celebrates the victory in the FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup. Thousands of fans of the Spanish women’s soccer team rejoice in the triumph of the players in the World Championship.

The Rise of Spanish Women's Football
IMAGO / Xinhua / Gao Jing | Spanish player Aitana Bonmati reacts as she receives the women’s Ballon d’Or award during the 2023 Ballon d’Or France Football award ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet. Oct. 30, 2023, Paris.

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IMAGO / Pacific Press Agency / Hugo Ortuno | Thousands of fans gather in Puente del Rey and its surroundings in Madrid to celebrate the Spanish women’s soccer team’s triumph in the World Championship. 22 Aug 2023, Spain.

Impact on Women’s Football in Spain

The victory has significantly boosted the profile of women’s football in Spain. This is evident in the record-breaking viewership of the final match on Spanish television and the large-scale celebrations in Madrid. This historic win indicates a growing parity in recognition and enthusiasm for women’s football in the country​​​​.

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IMAGO / Uk Sports Pics Ltd / Richard Nicholson | Spain won the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Final match between Spain and England. 20 August 2023, Australia.

Young Talent and Future Prospects

The emergence of young talents like 19-year-old Salma Paralluelo, who was a key player in the tournament and won the Best Young Player award, highlights the bright future of Spanish women’s football. These young players stepping up in a high-pressure environment is a testament to the structural and coordinated growth of academies for female talents in Spain. One in particular has produced players of the highest quality. The Barca Academy has developed global stars like Aitana Bonmatí, Alexia Putellas and the above-mentioned Salma Paralluelo, who made her introduction on the international stage at the recent World Cup with game-winning performances.

Cultural and Social Impact

Beyond the pitch, the World Cup win has catalyzed a shift in the perception of women’s football in Spain. The triumph was more than just a sporting achievement; it challenged long-standing gender norms and demonstrated that women’s football deserves equal respect and attention. This victory has inspired a new wave of enthusiasm and support for women’s football, evidenced by the celebrations in Madrid and the growing interest in the sport among young girls and women​.

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IMAGO / Eibner | Athenea del Castillo (Spain, 22) celebrates her victory and world champion title as a family member, friend or fan kisses her medal. AUS, Spain vs England, FIFA Women’s Football World Cup Australia 2023, Final, 20.08.2023, Sydney.

Economic Growth and Sponsorship

There’s an increasing recognition of the economic potential in women’s football. For instance, the Spanish league has recently signed a significant broadcasting deal, underscoring the growing commercial interest in women’s football. Such developments are essential for the sport’s growth as they lead to increased investments and more opportunities for players and teams.

IMAGO / PPE
IMAGO / PPE | Queen Letizia and King Felipe, along with FC Barcelona’s midfielder Alexia Putellas, attend the national sports award ceremony at the El Pardo Palace. April 18, 2023, Madrid, Spain.

Key Moments in Spanish Women’s Football

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IMAGO / PA Images / Zac Goodwin | Spain’s Alexia Putellas (left), Jennifer Hermoso, and Irene Paredes celebrate with the trophy after winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Final at Stadium Australia, Sydney. Picture date: Sunday, August 20, 2023.

Here are some major highlights of the Spanish women’s football team over the past decade.

Youth Teams’ Success (2010-2018)

Spain’s youth national teams have seen remarkable success, with the U-17 team winning the U-17 European Championship multiple times (2010, 2011, 2015, 2018) and the U-17 World Cup (2018, 2022). The U-19 team also won the UEFA U-19 European Championship in 2004, 2017, 2018, 2022, and 2023, highlighting the depth of young talent in Spanish women’s football.

imago/Action Plus
IMAGO / Action Plus / Nigel Cooke | The Spanish players celebrate their victory in the final, becoming the Under 19 European Champions. 20th August 2017, at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

First FIFA World Cup Qualification (2015)

In 2015, the Spanish women’s football team qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first time in history. This was a landmark moment for the team, signaling their arrival on the world stage and the start of a new era in Spanish women’s football.

imago/ZUMA Press
IMAGO / ZUMA Wire | Spanish players celebrate after Vicky Losada’s opening goal in the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup Group E match between Spain and Costa Rica at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada. June 9, 2015, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Professionalization of the League (2020)

The professionalization of the Primera Federación, Spain’s second-tier women’s football league, in 2020 marked a significant step in the development of the sport in the country. This move towards professionalism has helped enhance the quality and competitiveness of women’s football in Spain.

IMAGO / Cordon Press / Miguelez Sports
IMAGO / Cordon Press / Miguelez Sports | FC Barcelona players celebrate the Champions League title at the end of the FC Barcelona-Athletic Club match in the Iberdrola First League, held at the Johan Cruyff stadium.

Rise in FIFA World Rankings (2021)

In 2021, the Spanish women’s football team reached a significant milestone by entering the top 10 of the FIFA World Rankings for the first time. This achievement was a testament to the team’s growing prowess and consistency on the international stage.

imago images/ZUMA Wire
IMAGO / ZUMA Wire / Joaquin Corchero | Alexia Putellas of Spain celebrates a goal during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifier match between Spain and Scotland at La Cartuja Stadium on November 30, 2021, in Sevilla, Spain.

FC Barcelona’s Rise to the Top of Europe, Champions League Winner (2020/21, 2022/23)

Since the club’s professionalization in 2015, Barcelona have also become Spain’s most successful team in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, becoming the first Spanish UEFA Women’s  Champions League winners in 2020/21, making FC Barcelona the first club to win a Champions League title with both their men’s and women’s teams. Their dominance continued, securing the title in the latest edition of the UWCL in 2022/23.

imago images/Sergi Boixader Catot
IMAGO / agefotostock | Festive mood at Spotify Camp Nou stadium, full sold out with 91,648 spectators, the world attendance record for a women’s football match, in the 2022 Champions League semifinal FC Barcelona – Wolfsburg (5-1) held in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

Historic World Cup Victory for Spanish Women’s Football (2023)

Spain’s women’s football team achieved their greatest accomplishment by winning the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. This victory was not just a triumph on the field but also a significant cultural moment in Spain, challenging gender norms and boosting the popularity and visibility of women’s football in the country.

IMAGO/NurPhoto
IMAGO / NurPhoto / Norvik Alaverdian | Spain players celebrate with the FIFA Women’s World Cup Trophy following victory in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Final match between Spain and England at Australia Stadium on August 20, 2023, in Sydney, Australia.
IMAGO / Shutterstock / Morgan Hancock
IMAGO / Shutterstock / Morgan Hancock | Salma Paralluelo of Spain with one of the players’ children during the Spain Women vs. England Women’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Final at Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia, on August 20, 2023.

IMAGO/Sports Press Photo
IMAGO / Sports Press Photo / Daniela Porcelli | Captain Ana Tejada (#3) of Spain poses with the trophy, celebrating their victory during the trophy and medal ceremony at the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2022 tournament. August 28th, 2022, San Jose, Costa Rica.

imago images/Sergi Boixader Catot
IMAGO / agefotostock | Festive mood at Spotify Camp Nou stadium, full sold out with 91,648 spectators, the world attendance record for a women’s football match, in the 2022 Champions League semifinal FC Barcelona – Wolfsburg (5-1) held in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

IMAGO/ZUMA Wire
IMAGO / ZUMA Wire / Chris Putnam | Jennifer Hermoso of Spain celebrates after Spain beats England in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 at Stadium Australia on August 20, 2023, in Sydney, Australia.