Shove affairs and heated rivalries can push women’s football forward | Football

The cup final flashpoint between Emma Hayes and Jonas Eidevall

Rivalries and tribalism are two of the things we love about the game and there’s none stronger than that between Arsenal and Chelsea.

The teams met in the Continental League Cup final, with an extra-time goal earning the Gunners a 1-0 win in a match which ended with a shove from Blues boss Emma Hayes on opposite number Jonas Eidevall.

Tensions had been simmering for a while between the two clubs and the narrative involving those two teams gives us all something extra to enjoy while we’re watching.

Arsenal historically are the history makers in the English women’s game and were dominant for a long time but Chelsea now are the new kids on the block having their time as the team to beat.

In the men’s game, Manchester United were dominant for so long and Liverpool before them, but Manchester City have become the side to beat nowadays.

Those rivalries have not done the men’s game any harm and there is banter which adds to the spectacle. There’s nothing wrong with that, so when two big clubs meet in a cup final you expect some tension. There was a little scuffle between Hayes and Eidevall and both had their moments and heated emotions. Maybe one doesn’t like the other and vice versa, but they’re not supposed to like one another.

You get in each other’s heads as managers, that’s part of football. As long as you’re focused on the pitch as players, what happens and what is said off it shouldn’t affect you.

Emma Hayes walks away from Jonas Eidevall

Emma Hayes walks away from Jonas Eidevall (Picture: Getty)

Arsenal have just stopped Hayes’ dreams of signing off from her time with the Blues by winning the quadruple. Who would be happy in that scenario? It was the first trophy of the season and it has gone to Arsenal. Hayes brings a lot of personality to the Women’s Super League and I sit back and watch as much as anyone else. I’m a player first but I’m also a fan.

People are interested in what Hayes says and does. Some like her, others don’t. She is a Marmite character but it adds do the story.

At Barcelona we have developed a rivalry with Chelsea, not least last term when we knocked them out in the Champions League semi-finals – the same stage we meet them at this campaign when we face them over two legs this month.

There is a whole story brewing there but that is something more relatable in England. In Spain there is less focus, especially on the managers, around the clubs.

English football relies on the back stories and the ins and outs of everyday life in its leagues.

I see a lot more about the players than the bosses in Spain and it is down to the players to push the game. We get asked more about the game than what someone has said.

There’s no right or wrong way to do this but football needs its storylines to keep supporters interested and attract new people to the game. Sometimes it might go too far but we have to remember, football is an emotional game. And long may it stay that way.

Outstanding and outspoken, Wendie is football’s greatest leader

IT’S an extremely strong shortlist for the International Player of the Year trophy at the Women’s Football Awards and I’m up against three of my Barcelona team-mates to win it.

I play right next to our midfielder Aitana Bonmati every single game and she is the first person to win the Fifa Best award, the Ballon d’Or, Champions League and World Cup in the same year. She has had the most exceptional 12 months.

Winger Salma Paralluelo is an interesting one. If she doesn’t win the Ballon d’Or in the next ten years I’d be amazed. While Aitana does some very special things, Salma is only 20 and has it all. She has broken into the Spain team as well as the Barca side over the past year and has won so much already.

Wendie Renard is in the running for Women’s Football Awards recognition

Wendie Renard is in the running for Women’s Football Awards recognition(Picture: Shutterstock)

But there is someone else on the list I’d like to mention. Wendie Renard is an old Lyon team-mate of mine and probably hasn’t won as much as she could and should have.

At 33 she has seen and done it all. But aside from what she has won, she is a very good professional and has been at the top of her game for so long and that longevity is incredible. She is captain of the most successful club team in the world and just has so much respect from her fellow players.

It’s something about the way she treats people. She’s unique and I’ve not found her qualities in many other players.

Maybe her greatest triumph is in being so outspoken but managing to keep the whole dressing room behind her. That is something which is not easily done.

Cast your votes for the Women’s Football Awards at womensfootballawards.com

Ireland were tough to craic but we looked more like our old selves

Last week’s 2-0 victory in Dublin was very welcome after we were held 1-1 by Sweden in our European Championship qualifying opener.

We managed to get the goals to put the game to bed early thanks to Lauren James and an Alex Greenwood penalty and, even though we missed a second spot-kick, beating the Republic of Ireland gives us a massive lift.

Lucy Bronze (second left) joins the celebrations after Alex Greenwood's goal in Dublin

Lucy Bronze (second left) joins the celebrations after Alex Greenwood’s goal in Dublin (Picture: Getty)

Sweden at Wembley could have gone better and as reigning champions, we know we are a target for everyone we play and we face a tough group as we attempt to retain our crown next year.

But there was plenty to enjoy from the second performance to suggest we are looking more like our old selves again.

It should be a big platform for two very tough matches against France in June.

As a British, female-led brand, ALIGNE are proud to be partnering with Lucy Bronze as we champion women in sport. Female athletes are the epitome of confidence and strength and Lucy represents everything ALIGNE stands for.

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