After winning the European title, the Dutch women’s national team, also known as the ‘Oranjeleeuwinnen’ or ‘Orange Lionesses’, are everywhere. Talkshows, the front page of ‘Voetbal International’, the biggest Dutch soccer magazine, and almost every single newspaper you open: it’s hard to miss. And of course, that is amazing news. I’ve lost track of how many times people have told me that they had never watched women’s soccer before, but because of the hype in our country, decided to tune in to one or more games of WEURO 2017. Unanimously, they said: wow, this is amazing!
For women’s soccer, the coming months and years will be crucial. Will the success of the ‘Golden Girls’ lead to long-term growth in the world of women’s soccer in the Netherlands? Will more people come and watch the games in the Dutch Eredivisie, even though seven of the eleven starting players in the final against Denmark play their club soccer abroad? Will more young girls join a soccer team? And perhaps the most important aspect: will the Dutch federation (KNVB) and the clubs join forces to finally create long-lasting change and professionalisation of the women’s game?
Learning from Alex Morgan
When it comes to promotion, I believe Holland can learn a lot from the U.S. The country has several big stars when it comes to women’s soccer, like Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux, that partially because of their millions of Instagram followers draw more and more people to the stadiums. The ‘USWNT’ (United States Women’s National Team) works according to the following principle: if you can get people interested in the person, their interest in the player will follow from that. The American ladies are always promoting their games in talkshows, photoshoots and Facebook Q&As. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing that Sari van Veenendaal should aim for the Playboy or Mandy van den Berg has to become a regular guest on well-known Dutch TV shows. But I do think the ‘American model’, maybe in a slightly adapted Dutch version, could be successful here.
Lieke Martens, Vivianne Miedema, Jackie Groenen. Those are the names that will sound familiar to the majority of the Dutch people, even the most fanatic soccer haters, after the Euros. But what if the Dutch team has a match, and Miedema is injured? Or Groenen’s club doesn’t let her leave for national team duties? Or there’s a game between Achilles ’29 and Excelsior/Barendrecht in the women’s Eredivisie, and no players from the Euro final are playing?
That is where, as far as I’m concerned, the American model can make the change. Introduce the people to the player, as a person first, and the interest in their soccer will follow a lot faster.
Crash course Orange Lionesses
Of course, this can be done through social media, magazines and talkshows, but also via the more old school way: a book. Right before the start of WEURO 2017, ‘De Oranjeleeuwinnen‘, by Annemarie Postma was released. (Note: as of today, the book has only been released in Dutch. However, I do think it’s important to mention it here, not only because the theory I’m presenting works even if you’re not able to read the book in its native language, and also because I’ve not lost hope that one day, an international version will be released 😉 ) In that book, Postma talks to some of the players about their ambitions, their dreams, and their life as professional players. Not only is the book filled with lovely oneliners (‘I’m a simple person. (…) I walk around in flamingo socks. Do you think I’d buy a Rolex?’ – Vivianne Miedema), it’s also a great peek inside the lives of some more and less well-known Dutch players.
No, the book does not talk about the PEC Zwolle Women third goalkeeper, and neither is it an all-knowing Bible. It’s a very moving ‘crash course Orange Lionesses’, a book that will hold some surprising facts and new anecdotes even for the followers of women’s soccer.
I won’t make the comment that the Dutch players need to learn how to ‘sell themselves’, and thereby also sell their matches, because it sounds kind of inappropriate. However, I do think that the KNVB, the clubs and the ladies themselves could greatly benefit from looking at the American model. I think that it can be both a short- and long term solution for getting more people interested in women’s soccer in the Netherlands.
Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂