11 seasons and 343 games as coach in the elite of Spanish women’s football. A privileged expertise that positions Alberto Berna as a solid reference in the benches of Primera División. Loyal to his Zaragoza Femenino, with which he concluded his journey last season, he reached to Queen’s Cup finals, debuted at La Romareda, played in front of 35,000 spectators in Equatorial Guinea and lifted a prestigious summer trophy in Lisbon. Following his story as a coach, Alberto looks back to his adventure in Spanish women’s football. You can follow him on @abernaffem.
Throughout your consistent trajectory in First Division, how have experienced the evolution of Spanish women’s football?
I have lived many changes in my 11 seasons in Primera División. From my beginnings to date, there has been a radical change. From the investment from sponsors as Iberdrola, the support from institutions to the steps at a national association level. In the last years, we are seeing how the base, especially in the youth categories of the national team, is already rewarding all the effort and sacrifice. This set of changes promises a bright future where meadia, fans and competitions will play a significant role. On the other hand, one bet leads to another. Clubs that didn’t have a women’s team are starting to create their own. However, we will miss something until Real Madrid doesn’t have its team, it would be the ultimate leap in Spain and abroad.
“We are on our way in professionalising clubs, but the players aren’t professional yet.”
To attract sponsors and fans to the stadiums, a product in constant evolution seems necessary. What can we do to make women’s football more attractive?
We are on our way to improve the experience of the game. We have grown a lot more in the recent years than in the past. As said, if Real Madrid had its women’s team, the competition would boost its awareness as big part of the media attention is dedicated to Barça and Madrid. At a club level, is crucial to continue maturing regarding sponsors and fans. Especially, the most humble clubs that don’t count with resources from the men’s team. In Zaragoza, I lived first-hand how the smallest ones needed to push a lot more to gain the same attention as the big ones. For instance, FC Barcelona signed its first jersey sponsor for the women’s team, small but solid steps towards sustainability.
The professionalisation of the league at all levels is an indispensable need. Is it the first step to make the leap too?
In my opinion, is the fundamental step. We are on our way in professionalising clubs, but the players aren’t professional yet. Clubs as FC Barcelona, Atlético de Madrid and Athletic de Bilbao are headed in the good direction but others should join as well. Likewise, the competition should be more strict in promoting the need of professionalisation. It’s the first step to be more competitive in Spain and in Europe. Nowadays, there is a huge gap among salaries, where some players are playing almost for free. Side education should be an option and football their profession.
“Atlético de Madrid is a role model for its performance on and off the pitch, I wish they can keep growing in Europe.”
Clubs play a vital role in developing the game. How are they doing on the pitch and at the office?
Without any doubt, clubs are absolutely important. It obviously help if federations, media and other agents push, but it’s very difficult if clubs don’t. For this reason, we need them to invest in professional teams with resources like proper facilities. At a growth level, there is a long way to walk. We need more and specialised professionals to contribute from the inside. At a national level, Atlético de Madrid is a role model for its performance on and off the pitch, I wish they can keep growing in Europe.
“We need more and specialised professionals to contribute from the inside.”
How will evolve women’s football 5 years from now?
Being very optimistic, we will see a very professional and competed women’s football. With a more powerful media impact. We must keep the good rhythm, but without getting crazy. The creation of the new category, Primera División B (the new and shorter 2nd Division), will help to make a more equal, competed and serious game. At a national level, the youth teams are growing strong and are already shining in Europe and in the world. The next World Cup in France will become an inflection point as it was Canada 2015. With the positive inertia of the last years, the World Cup will upgrade women’s football at all levels.