The history of women’s football is complicated – also and especially in Germany. In 1955, the German Football Association (DFB) banned all women’s teams, saying the game was “alien to the nature of women”. The ban was lifted in 1970, but it was not until 1982 that a women’s national team was officially founded. However, how low the appreciation that the new DFB selection was for a long time was shown, among other things, by the bonus that the association gave to its successful title winners after the 1989 European Championship. Instead of money, there was the floral coffee service “Mariposa” from Villeroy

And today? Of course, the women in soccer in Germany and around the world are far from equal to the men, at least not in financial terms. But when the team of national coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg starts the World Cup with the game against Morocco on Monday (10.30 a.m., ZDF and in the sports ticker of WELT), it will still be under a fundamentally different sign.

On the one hand, this is due to their own successes: When the German team made it to the final at the EM 2022 and narrowly missed out on hosts England, almost 18 million people in Germany watched ARD, which corresponds to a market share of 64.5 percent and was the most successful TV show of the year. In second place on this list: the German men’s World Cup match against Spain with 17.06 million viewers and a market share of 53.1 percent.

The increasing popularity of soccer women is also due to the through ball of their male colleagues. The selection of national coach Hansi Flick has been doing everything to scare the fans away for years – starting with the preliminary round at the 2018 World Cup, which was repeated four years later, to not making it through to the round of 16 at the 2022 European Championship, to the most recent dropouts, when there was one disgrace after the next in the test matches against Ukraine, Poland and Colombia. This is reflected in audience ratings and stadiums that are not sold out – and in the rising popularity of women’s football, which is evident in the league and with the national team.

Now it would be presumptuous to speak of a changing of the guard, the bastion of men’s football is (still) too powerful for that. But many German football fans in particular have started to think differently. Once ridiculed and/or ignored, women’s football is now viewed with genuine interest and goodwill. On the one hand, it is appreciated that the women have caught up enormously in terms of technology and athletics. On the other hand, women’s football is perceived as more honest than men’s football: there is less acting, less discussion with the referee – and the fact that the economic conditions have not gotten completely out of hand as with the men’s is also a plus.

“When I follow the reports, the basic interest is very high. You can no longer avoid the topic of the Women’s World Cup. The transmission times are known, and I hope that many fans take their lunch break or are on vacation when the German team plays,” says Nia Künzer, 43, who made the German team world champion in 2003 with their golden goal in the final and who works as a TV expert at the current World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

For her, the recent brilliant TV ratings for women’s international matches “of course also have a lot to do with the sporting process”, which is reflected not least in increased expectations: “Of course, from the outside it’s relatively high now. This has to do with the increased interest and also with the convincing performance such as the really good performance at the last European Championship. The way the team presented themselves there, the players are now quite right to speak of the title.” But, Künzer warns: “The road to the final will definitely be brutally difficult. In the round of 16 it will probably be against Brazil or France. You have to catch a good day and play at the limit. And England are already threatening in the quarter-finals.”

However, the strong performances and brilliant television ratings have not yet led to betting on the market, on the contrary: the assignment of rights for the 2023 World Cup was tough and sometimes simply unprofessional. For a long time there was no TV station in Germany that wanted to pay the sum demanded by the world association Fifa – reportedly ten million euros – for the broadcasting rights. A “blackout” was only averted a few weeks before the start of the tournament, and now ARD and ZDF are broadcasting extensively from Australia and New Zealand. “You can of course be happy with the solution now,” said Künzer, “but that mustn’t happen like this anymore. It’s okay that the women’s tournament is marketed independently. But the tender only started in January and therefore much too late – that’s no longer serious marketing.”

When it comes to pay, men and women are still worlds apart, even though the coffee service era is over. Fifa is distributing 110 million dollars to the participating nations at this World Cup. That’s significantly more than the tournament four years ago, when there was only $30 million. But it’s only a quarter of the 440 million dollars that were paid out by the world association at the 2022 men’s World Cup.

For Nia Künzer, however, the much-cited “equal payment” between men and women is not a goal that should be fought for at the moment. “We’re not that far yet,” says the 34-time national player, who suffered four cruciate ligament ruptures in her career: “We’re currently talking more about the fact that hopefully in the near future all players in the Bundesliga will be able to train under professional conditions and practice their competitive sport. That at least everyone gets the minimum wage and that the Bundesliga is not only competitive with two or three teams in European competition, but maybe with five or six teams.

At least she sees clear tendencies in the right direction. “Many things have already been initiated and are being pushed further, so I have the feeling that a lot is still possible.” However, this is not a sure-fire success, although it is now known that “a certain economic potential lies dormant” in women’s football. This can also be seen from the partnerships and advertising contracts: “This hype is clearly recognizable and will not disappear with the final of the World Cup.”