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An Open Letter To Florentino Pérez: It's Time For A Women's Team At Real Madrid

Real Madrid need a women's team, Mr Pérez. This is my letter to you explaining why, and it doubles as my own love-letter to the women's game.

Technical Perfection: Louisa Necib of France
Technical Perfection: Louisa Necib of France
Daniel Kopatsch

Untapped Galácticism

I begin this letter with a digression.

Picture a scene. A player steps up to take a free kick in the opening game of the World Cup. There are 70,000 fans in the stadium. A few minutes earlier, the same player was elbowed in the face by the opposition goal keeper. With a broken nose, the player had staggered to the sidelines to change jerseys - blood was everywhere. For a moment the doctors had to restrain the player long enough to snap the nose back into place and stuff it full of cotton to stop up the blood.

Any player would be feeling woozy, but standing over the ball, Canada's Christine Sinclair thinks she can score from 30 yards out. She runs up and strikes. The ball's trajectory is perfect - over the German defensive wall it curls out of reach and beats one of the best keepers in the world, Germany's Nadine Angerer, who hasn't conceded a single goal in 2 years.

It will end 2-1 and Canada won't win the game. But they've gained a national heroine. Canadians love under-dogs. They love wholesome kids from Vancouver who have a dream. They have a weakness for athletes in any sport who keep going, even when in pain or struggling with mild concussion. Christine, smiling with a swollen face, is splashed across the front page of every single Canadian newspaper the next day.

One year later, Sinclair (a self-professed Liverpool fan) visits enemy ground for the Olympic semi-final. One of her favorite players is Steven Gerrard. She loves Liverpool and is a fan of that team. She wants to do really well in the stadium of their great rivals. The game is at Old Trafford.

She scores a hat-trick against the USA, single-handedly getting her team to within one late goal of penalties after extra-time. She's the outstanding player on the pitch in a game marred by officiating controversy. It infuriates her. After the game she blasts the referees, FIFA and her opponents. The Canadians who got up at 4 o'clock in the morning to watch her play shed a tear with her. They love her already. But the performance seems to reinforce why they fell in love in the first place - her genius on the ball, her courage, her status as the greatest striker in Canadian history, the under-dog status of the team she has led to the semi-final and will ultimately win the third place medal with. That the loss is to the team's great national rivals - the USA - only reinforces this.

Canada's golden girl. And well she should be.

An Explanation & An Apology

I hope I've held your interest, Mr Pérez.

Writing this piece has been a struggle I've returned to after nearly 6 months. What has kept me from publishing and had me running through several drafts is that it personally galls me that writing about women's football seems impossible without being patronizing. That says a great deal about the state of the game in much of the world. Nevertheless, this is an important issue that must be addressed and so this is an apology for being forced to explain why women's football is valuable and interesting when it should be self-explanatory - and is self-explanatory already to those who love watching their women's teams play.

As for using Christine Sinclair as an example of what I would like to term untapped Galácticism, my own bias for a favourite player is showing, and I apologize. I could just as easily have spoken of a player like Lira Bajramaj, who fled to Germany as a small girl from the war in Kosovo to become one of Germany's national heroines. With a culturally conservative father who wanted a princess for a daughter - a little girl who would wear dresses and sing and dance - she was forced to hide the fact she was playing to avoid making him angry. Her brothers helped her keep her secret. But one day her father caught her playing for her school in a game when he showed up to watch her brother play. He was furious but couldn't take her off before half-time without causing a scene. While he sat in the stands waiting to take her home for a scolding she scored 4 goals in 45 minutes.

He was an instant convert. Her goals were so beautiful. And she'd scored 4 of them! He picked her up from school the next day to buy proper cleats and threw in a Borussia Moenchengladbach jersey for good luck. He's been her biggest fan ever since.

This is not a complex idea, I suppose. As in the men's game there are heroines galore - in every country, in every league. Players with compelling personal stories. Players who have overcome difficulty to become the best in the world. Players of technical perfection and vision like Louisa Necib of France. Players who are leaders, like Nadine Angerer of Germany or Marta of Brazil - still the only football player in history to win 5 consecutive ballon d'ors. Players of unique skill like Abby Wambach of the United States - who has arguably the best aerial game of any player in the world, male or female.

So this piece asks, where are the heroines for Real Madrid?

Because there is, of course, great drama and beauty and glamour in the women's game. There are great teams, and great athletes. In some countries, they are more famous or more prominent than their male counter-parts. One thinks, for example, of Christine Sinclair or Abby Wambach. Ask any Canadian to name a man on the national team and you'll likely get a blank look in a country where Christine Sinclair, Diane Matheson, Karina LeBlanc and Co. are national heroines.

This is an appeal to Real Madrid to get going with a women's team. To open academies. To encourage girls around Spain and around the world (the club is, after all, of an international character) to start dreaming of playing for Real Madrid. To get girls into an academy in Madrid that does things from the ground-up.

But at this club, so enamoured of Galácticos under the current regime, it would seem more than a simple pitch for fairness is required.

Hence my initial focus, which should be unnecessary, on only some of the players I consider to be the current Galácticos of the sport. I could have gone much further. I could have mentioned the current World Champions of Japan, for example, who inspired a whole nation in the aftermath of the tsunami and nuclear disaster in a performance that had the Japanese public so enamoured they broke the record for number of tweets sent per second in one of the most exciting finals I have ever watched.

Florentino Pérez, there are Galácticos on offer. I know you love your big players; the ones with a national following who inspire, and the star quality they bring that adds to the glamour of the club I know you love as much as I do - even when we don't always agree on how it should be run.

Don't hold back. You can buy as many midfielders as you want - and we both know you know you want to.

A Final Note: The Women's Game In Context

Undeniable Galácticism and the romance of the women's game aside, a little girl can dream of playing for Arsenal or for Barcelona (current Spanish league holders, as it happens - and wouldn't it be great to have a double dose of El Clásico every year?), but not Real Madrid.

That hardly seems fair. For children with a great passion for the sport, it helps to have a dream - even if it may be out of reach. To be able to imagine yourself to be Cristiano Ronaldo or Christine Sinclair should be a part of childhood. Simply put: the way millions of children around the world kick a ball around the pitch or on a scrap of concrete; what they dream about and who they imagine they are, or who they imagine they could be - that is all a part of the experience of being a football fan and of kicking a ball around as a child. Perhaps it's the most important, because children who play and love the game will remain fans for life.

And finally, Real Madrid is the biggest club on earth. There are too many places in the world where girls are not encouraged to put on cleats and kick a ball around. Too many unconverted fathers in conservative cultures who have yet to realize that it is desirable that their girls gain confidence and self-esteem by expressing themselves on the pitch. Too many Federations who don't have time to even form a women's team, fund it properly, or provide institutional support.

So just as women's football can give added lustre to Real Madrid, Real Madrid has the ability to lend its weight and glamour and institutional support to women's football.

So I have only one thing to say before I spend the next couple of hours re-watching the footage of Christine Sinclair's three beautiful goals at Old Trafford before planning my morning for the next time The Arsenal Ladies have a match.

Florentino Pérez: I want a women's team at Real Madrid.

So get on with it, would you?

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