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The UEFA Women's Champions League resumes next week with the first leg of the quarter-finals – and keeping a close eye is a two-time winner of the European club crown, former 1. FFC Frankfurt defender Steffi Jones.
A scorer in the inaugural UEFA Women's Cup final in 2002 and a victor again as Frankfurt sealed the second of their three titles four years later, Jones is the ambassador for this season's final at the Olympiastadion in Munich on 17 May. She is naturally paying close attention to Frankfurt, who on Thursday visit WFC Malmö – whom Jones helped her team beat 4-1 to end the Swedish side's only previous European campaign in the 2003/04 semi-finals – and told UEFA.com that a repeat is likely.
UEFA.com: How do you rate Frankfurt's chances against Malmö?
Steffi Jones: I see Frankfurt as favourites – they have so many national-team players in their team. As far as I can see, Frankfurt have played and performed pretty well so far this season so I guess they will definitely make it into the next round.
UEFA.com: Last year the winner was not German as Olympique Lyonnais beat 1. FFC Potsdam in the final – is this a sign other countries are challenging?
Jones: That's what we wanted to create: competition all over Europe, so that other leagues also develop and become competitive, and not just a German team becomes a Champions League winner but also other teams. Last year it was a fantastic final and it was deservedly won by Lyon, not by Turbine Potsdam.
UEFA.com: How important is this final for women's football in Munich and Bavaria?
Jones: Every event, especially such a big one, can only have a positive impact on the clubs. Girls' and women's football can participate in it and that's what we want: it's not an event that only takes place in Bavaria, but we include all the federations, to send us their girls and boys. We promote football and it is not just a question of Bavaria benefiting from it within their state, but that we generally want to promote it all over Germany. And if then the Bayern München men's team also make it to the final, that's another great boost. It's important to see it as a whole, not only this one region, but it's us, Germany, who might have two German teams playing in the Champions League finals. That is what we are promoting and we will all be their fans if they make it.
UEFA.com: How has the competition changed since your first 2002 UEFA Women's Cup win?
Jones: Well it's changed because the game has become faster – and also the conditions, the investments, have all become greater. So it's a huge motivation for teams to make it into the next rounds; and even for clubs who were eliminated in the first round, it is important that they participated. That is a huge motivation and stimulus for the clubs. To play in the Champions League has huge significance and that's why we are happy about the development. It was a huge challenge: first the UEFA Women's Cup and now the Champions League, that has a different sound – it has something special to it. So it's a really positive development.
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