The English football family and Chelsea FC are delighted to be staging the UEFA Women's Champions League final at Stamford Bridge in London next spring – and everyone is convinced the game will live up to its billing at a stadium which has experienced its share of memorable occasions down the years.
UEFA announced yesterday that the showpiece match in European women's club football would be held at Stamford Bridge on Thursday 23 May 2013. London is hosting the match for the second time in three years after Fulham FC's Craven Cottage provided the venue for the 2011 final.
The event will come in an exciting week for London and the English Football Association (FA), with the city also staging the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress on 24 May as well as the men's UEFA Champions League final at Wembley Stadium on 25 May. Former England captain and Arsenal LFC defender Faye White will serve as the 2013 UEFA Women's Champions League final ambassador, working with UEFA to help promote not only the fixture, but women's football in general.
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo also heralded spring's Stamford Bridge showpiece. "I think for us it's a great honour to be able to organise such a big game," he said. "I admire women's football. I do watch it – probably more so the international football – and I think we'll be a great host for the final."
Former Chelsea and England full-back Graeme Le Saux added: "The amount of effort UEFA are putting in to raising the profile of the women's game is great to see. It is getting young girls really engaged with football all the way through.
"I was at the final at Craven Cottage a couple of years ago, when the men's final was at Wembley, and I saw Potsdam take on Lyon and it was a really good, high-standard game," Le Saux went on. "It was very well supported, and for last year's final in Germany there were over 50,000 people at the game. It is a great feather in our cap to host it and it shows to Europe how serious we are about women's football.
"Playing the finals in the same city in the same week gives UEFA the chance to use the men's final to highlight the women's game, and there was a real push through the Champions League festival which was in Hyde Park two years ago – the women's trophy was there as well. The association with the men's final is really helpful, and once you have seen the women's final you realise the quality and entertainment."
Le Saux continued: "In any sport, you want a pathway from grassroots to elite and this game is an example to young women of how far you can get if you have the right support and the right commitment, and the women's game is in really good shape."
Emma Hayes, the Chelsea LFC manager who was part of the Arsenal set-up when they won the 2007 UEFA Women's Cup, said: "The Champions League is the biggest club competition in the world in the women's game and it has been growing in importance since it became a Champions League rather than a Women's Cup, which it once was, and all players around the world aspire to play in it. In terms of increasing awareness and bringing the fans out, I am sure we will see a full house at Stamford Bridge."
English fans will have no better opportunity to witness the technical and tactical quality of women's soccer. The England team were runners-up at UEFA Women's EURO 2009 in Finland, and Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourley agreed the match could certainly attract new converts. "We hope this final will inspire women and girls to take part in the game," he said. "We look forward to welcoming the two best teams in Europe in May."
Hope Powell, who coached England to that European final three years ago, is also looking forward to the game. "This is a great opportunity to further raise the profile of the sport, and for fans to see some of the best female footballers in Europe," she said.
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