The game at Barcelona's Camp Nou drew an audience of 91,553 fans, more than this year's Super Bowl.
In a watershed moment for women's sports, an astounding 91,553 fans turned up at Camp Nou, the largest football stadium in Europe, to watch the UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid. It was the largest ever attendance for a women's football match—even larger than at this year's Super Bowl (70,048). The majority of the fans who came to watch the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final were Barcelona supporters and they watched their team defeat Real Madrid 5-2 to secure a place in the semi-finals, reported CNN. Barcelona and Real Madrid have a strong rivalry going back decades and their clashes are dubbed the "El Classico." The crowd held up a huge mosaic that read: "More than empowerment."
"I'm speechless. It's a dream come true. I can only answer with more work, getting better and winning games so we can give them a big spectacle," said Barcelona's Alexia Putellas, the best women's player last year. "I saw a lot of girls, children with that spark in their eyes. It's amazing to be part of history." Barcelona forward Caroline Graham Hansen said it felt surreal. "The fans [are] not leaving for home, they're just staying to celebrate with us. I didn't imagine anything like it and it's just goosebumps all over the place," said Hansen. "They have been singing all game and it's been amazing. It's something I never dreamed of happening and here today we did it. Hopefully it's not the last time we're doing this."
The record 91,553 fans who watched the game in Spain crossed the previous record of 60,739 people who watched Atletico Madrid take on Barcelona at their home stadium—the Metropolitano—in 2019. The attendance at the Nou Camp also eclipses the world record for any women's game, which was 90,195 when the U.S. beat China in the women's World Cup final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California in 1999. While it was a victory for Barcelona, the occasion was one celebrated by all of women's soccer. U.S. women's national team superstar Megan Rapinoe tweeted, "A crowd fitting for the team on the pitch! You LOVE to see it." Barcelona women's team is also on a historic run this season, having won all of their 25 league matches so far. Real Sociedad, the second-placed, has won 18 matches. Barcelona has made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League after defeating Real Madrid and will face Wolfsburg.
The popularity of the women's game has been growing rapidly and has seen more calls for equal pay between men and women sides. As we reported, earlier this year, the U.S. women's soccer team won a historic battle for equal pay. The U.S. Soccer Federation announced the decision after reaching a $24 million settlement with players who sued the governing body. "For us, this is just a huge win in ensuring that we not only right the wrongs of the past, but set the next generation up for something we only dreamed of,” said Megan Rapinoe, who was one of the players who had sued the federation. The settlement announced will see the U.S. soccer body paying men and women at an equal rate in all friendlies and tournaments, including the World Cup. "We are really in the midst of an incredible turning point in women’s sport," said Rapinoe. "If you’re not paying attention to this right now and what’s happening in women’s sport, you’re sleeping on the whole thing.”
The disparity in pay is humongous with FIFA awarding $400 million in prize money for the 32 teams at the 2018 men’s World Cup while awarding just $30 million for the 24 teams at the 2019 women’s World Cup. Similarly, the men's world champions received $38 million as prize money in 2018 while the U.S. women's soccer team was awarded just $4 million. “U.S. Soccer has agreed to equalize the prize money moving forward, obviously we call on FIFA to truly equalize that for men's and women’s tournaments," said Alex Morgan, a star player. "That’s really what we set out to do. Equalize on all fronts. It’s a proud moment for all of us.”