When Lyon defeated Barcelona 4-1 in Budapest in May’s UEFA Women’s Champions League final, it was their sixth European title this decade and fourth in a row.
The world over, Lyon is seen as the blueprint for growth within women’s football. A club that offers a full-time, professional environment with some of the best facilities in the women’s game.
Seventeen domestic league titles and ten French cups make Lyon the most successful club in France and one of the most successful in the world. For this reason, the city, along with others like Portland, is seen as one of the global hubs of women’s football and has become one of the most desired destinations for players to ply their trade.
Names familiar to fans in France such as Sonia Bompastor, Camille Abily and Louisa Necib have graced the fields in Lyon, while overseas stars such as Hope Solo, Lotta Schelin and Aly Wagner have all been attracted to France’s third-largest city to sample top-flight French football.
Club President Jean-Michel Aulas spoke at last month’s FIFA Women’s Football Convention about the set-up of the club and why he had invested so much resource into making it into one of the best in the world. He outlined that when he launched the women’s team in 2004, he wanted the structure to be the same as the men’s, with resources equal, such as a full-time medical team for both the men and women, as well as transport and logistics that mirrored.
An academy has been setup to ensure young talent has a pathway into the senior team, and despite a wealth of talent from overseas, youngsters such as Delphine Cascarino and Selma Bacha have been given the opportunity to shine.
Aulas has put women’s football on the map in Lyon by attracting some of the best players in the world – many of which who have played at this FIFA Women’s World Cup™ – and stated at the convention that this has also seen an ‘internal investment return’, with staff just as excited about the women’s team as they are the men.
This week, over 150,000 fans will pack into the home stadium of Olympique Lyonnais when it welcomes the two semi-finals and final, which has hosted some memorable matches since its opening in January 2016. As well as matches at UEFA EURO 2016, Parc Olympique Lyonnais has hosted some thrilling matches involving the club’s women’s team, mostly in the Women’s Champions League, with one of the most notable a 7-0 triumph over rivals Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-final first leg in 2016.
Lyon has welcomed giants of the women’s game such as Manchester City, Chelsea and Wolfsburg to their home stadium since its opening, but the Women’s World Cup will see international football played at the stadium for the very first time.
Seven players from the four semi-finalists have links to Lyon, with Shanice van de Sanden (Netherlands) and England duo Lucy Bronze and Nikita Parris currently with the club. Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Morgan Brian of the USA, and Caroline Seger of Sweden, have all had stints at the club in the past, and have all won trophies.
Lyon is a city where women’s football belongs, and this week fans of the USA, England, Netherlands and Sweden will find out why the city has been chosen to host FIFA’s showpiece women’s football event. With its cafes and restaurants in Vieux Lyon, and views from Fourviere Hill, Lyon will have something for everyone – including some world class football featuring global stars of the game.